America celebrates Black history month during the month of February. The choice of the shortest month of the year offers a fitting reflection of the importance our country has placed on Black history—but it plays a far more prominent role in informing and inspiring our campaign to win a new voice for San Francisco in Congress.

Black history offers crucial lenses through which to better understand the struggles of our present day. Beyond commemorating a community whose history has been erased for too long, we actively learn from that history, and apply its lessons every day.

It’s impossible to even discuss Black history without grappling with the political assassinations that took from us world-historical leaders including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and Fred Hampton. Their assassinations, in turn, reveal the depth of America’s commitment to neo-imperialism—and the functional meaningless of our supposed “rights” when capital finds itself threatened by voices from civil society.

Many have come to recognize the threat posed by white supremacy in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidency. It has been no surprise to us, precisely because Black history reveals the vast, longstanding—and continuing—disparity between our nation’s rhetoric and the disappointing reality of what passes for democracy in America.

In 2007, I visited India & Pakistan for a 13-city tour performing hip-hop & spoken word promoting communal harmony between Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, and South Asians of other faiths. While visiting the city of Amritsar, I visited the site of Jallianwala Bagh, where British troops massacred thousands of Indians in 1919 who were protesting British colonial rule 30 years before finally securing independence.

Hundreds of people died by leaping into a well to escape the fusillade. The bullet holes in the wall are still there.

50 years after the massacre at Jallianwala Bagh, Fred Hampton was assassinated while he slept, at the ripe age of 21. He pioneered the free breakfast program launched by the Black Panthers, which in turn inspired the free breakfast programs now widely practiced across the U.S. in public schools.

During the early days of the pandemic, we reminded thousands of San Franciscans about the availability of those resources. Decades before they became helpful to San Franciscans of every color & creed, Fred was killed (without charge or trial) by the FBI and local police authorities for having helped create them.

I lived in Chicago for a decade throughout the 90s. And I’ve spoken at a law school symposium in Chicago alongside the lawyers who represented his allies after his death. Neither Fred’s sacrifice, nor those of the revolutionaries of the Global South who overcame despotic colonial rule, are lost on me.

Their sacrifices, juxtaposed with the remarkable privileges that we each inhabit today, are precisely what inspired me to challenge the most powerful corporate politician on the planet.

I’m proud to stand in solidarity with Black America.

It’s why I’ve taken action with the movement for Black lives from coast-to-coast, long before the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. It’s why I risked arrest in the U.S. Senate to ask powerful Democrats how they justified the police murder of Eric Garner in 2015, and the failure of our system to hold accountable the officers responsible.

It’s only through seeing history through the lens of the least enfranchised that we can witness the pattern of oppression and subjugation that persists across every era in U.S. history.

It is the response to that pattern that animates my contemporary political commitments. Black history reveals the intersections among the evils identified by Dr. King: racism, militarism, and capitalism.

The movement to end slavery was one that vindicated human rights, but it was also a battle against capital.

That’s why I also advocate for a moratorium on rent & mortgage payments, universal health care, a $25/hour federal minimum wage, and climate justice. Each of these issues affect Americans from every walk of life—but they are all ultimately struggles that pit human beings against capital. And for too long, our policies have served capital while leaving people out in the (too often, literal) cold.

It’s easy for people whose acculturation to politics overlooks Black history to think of those as separate issues, or to grant legitimacy to the battles between corporate political parties in Washington, or to defer to the establishment by considering discrete policy questions in isolation, rather than in the context of surrounding policies that intersect and amplify marginalization.

It’s Black history that has offered me the lens to see through that facade, to understand the historical implications of today’s debates in Congress, and to deconstruct the smoke & mirrors of each day’s news cycle to get back to first principles.

It was Black history that first inspired me to critique capitalism, policing, and the Democratic Party. And it’s Black history—alongside the future history of the United States of America—that I hope to help shift by representing San Francisco in Washington.

We invite you to take advantage of this month to learn something new, and we further invite you to take action on what you learn. If you don’t know how or where to start, reply to this email and we can offer a few ideas.

Your voice, in service,

Shahid