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Kevin Powell Launches National Grassroots Organization
11/27/2013 10:45:00 AM

Kevin Powell (center), the founder of BK Nation is surrounded by a diverse crowd during the D.C. launch of the multi-chapter national organization that tackles social and political issues using grassroots activism, technology and social media. Courtesy of ERIC HILL

By Sam P.K. Collins

Activist and author Kevin Powell recently announced the launch of BK Nation, a New York-based, multi-chapter national organization that tackles social and political issues through a combination of grassroots activism, technology, and social media, before more than 70 artists, educators, filmmakers, and business owners.

The Nov. 3rd launch event at the Akwaaba Bed and Breakfast in Northwest followed a New York launch event in October and comes before an event in Los Angeles scheduled for early January 2014.

“For the past 30 years, I have watched the right wing create a movement that has changed the direction of this country and I don’t see why we cannot create a similar movement,” said Powell, 47. “We have ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws, ‘Stop and Frisk,’ and voter laws that are out of control. Imagine [what could happen] if we replicate what we felt [during the 2008 presidential election] and make it a part of our value system,” said Powell who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Guests spent the evening talking among themselves while enjoying hors d’oeuvres and listening to the tunes of Danté Pope & the Jazz Collective. During his remarks, Powell briefly reflected on his experiences as a political activist and [promoted] the launch event as an opportunity to mobilize people of various age groups, industries, and socioeconomic backgrounds a couple months before BK Nation’s official nationwide launch in January.

“When you have those diverse life experiences and you meet so many different types of people, you start thinking about ways to bring people together,” said Powell. “Anything is possible. A progressive multicultural movement can happen in this country to serve communities, particularly the black community.”

Camille Watkin, a forensic therapist, and Kia Bennett, a singer and songwriter, set out to make connections at the event as they promoted their anti-bullying literature, which they developed for schools, churches, and community organizations. Watkin said Powell’s message of collaboration quickly resonated with her.

“This is beyond any moment. This is a movement,” said Watkin, 41. “It’s very innovative at a time when young people are utilizing social media in so many different ways. We can all benefit from collaboration and networking opportunities,” said Watkin who lives in Columbia, Md.

Donnie Martin, a student and musical producer, said BK Nation’s multigenerational approach and emphasis on the arts as a collaborative tool compelled him to inquire further about the steps the organization will take to expand in the D.C. metropolitan area.

“[This organization] is important for the sake of relating to people,” said Martin, 26, who attends the University of the District of Columbia in Northwest. “This brother has a message and great concern for people at large. He wants to use the arts to get in contact with [my generation]. I’m curious to see what approach he will use,” said Martin who lives in Northwest.

Powell first developed BK Nation in in the early 1990s while working as a senior staff writer for the national hip-hop publication Vibe Magazine. While he initially intended it to serve as a space for political discourse, the historic election of President Barack Obama in 2008 prompted him to reach out to friends and colleagues and begin putting the finishing touches on the grassroots organization.

The organization, as he envisioned it, would provide resources specific to the needs of various inner-city communities across the country.

Powell, a writer and activist for 30 years, likened BK Nation to the Black Panther Movement, saying that he wants to ensure that the greatest priority is given to those living in impoverished communities.

“We are going to be a clearinghouse of information for communities. Every chapter will have monthly forums,” said Powell. “Our folks will go to different cities and show people how to run their chapters. We’re not a top-down organization. There are folks who have different problems. You have to address the needs of the community.”

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