Women organizers in Indianapolis: Amber Toombs and serving the people

Amber helping to provide food to people at No Question Asked Food Pantry

In the United States, Black women in particular are at the forefront of the struggles for a better world, but you wouldn’t know this from the whitewashed corporate face given to Women’s History Month and International (Working) Women’s Day.

Amber Toombs (she/they) is an organizer for Black liberation with Indy10 Black Lives Matter. They are also one of the lead organizers of the No Questions Asked Food Pantry–a Fountain Square-based food justice pantry located in Fountain Square that served nearly 22,000 individuals in the last nine months of 2020 after the pandemic hit Indianapolis–and the Indy10 BLM liaison with Hope Packages.

No Questions Asked provides hot meals, boxes of food, cat and dog food, baby items, hygiene kits, toilet paper, and personal protective equipment for free to those who stop by their location at The Church Within. People who are unable to physically make it to the pantry can sign up for deliveries. At no point does the pantry ask for identification, proof of residency, or proof of need.

Amber explains that their influences as an organizer today are the artistic works of James Baldwin and the practical work of the Black Panther Party to serve the people through free clinics, breakfast for school children, legal aid, education, and other community needs. “Dr. Huey P. Newton describes the programs as a way to satisfy the needs of the community, but that they are not solutions, they are methods of survival pending revolution.”

Amber describes themselves as a “firm believer in socialism,” a system “where the workers own the means of production and the needs of the people are met.” The injustices routinely committed against Black and Brown and other oppressed people, which all too often go unpunished under capitalism, brought Amber into the struggle. “It’s Sandra Bland. It’s Trayvon Martin. It’s Eric Garner. It’s Kalief Browder. It’s Tamir Rice. It’s Korryn Gaines. Assata Shakur teaches us that activists are not born, they are made out of oppression.”

The making of socialist organizers comes from their own political experiences, especially where these experiences highlight the limits of reform possible under capitalism. For Amber, one such experience was the realization that Barack Obama, although he was the first Black President of the United States, was otherwise little different from the war criminals he followed in that office. “When Obama was elected in 2008, I wanted so bad to be 18 to vote for him. I was so naive!”

To women looking to get involved, Amber advises them to listen to their heart. “If your heart’s not in it, you won’t last. People doing the actual work, like the Black women and femmes who run Indy10 Black Lives Matter, rarely get the credit they deserve.”

While the work is challenging and often thankless, it is a labor of love. Reflecting on Malcolm X’s question, “Who taught you to hate yourself?” gave Amber the ability to “see the beauty and power that is Black.”

As the Argentine-Cuban fighter for socialism Che Guevara said, “the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.” Amber possesses this quality in an abundance. “I do this work for my love of Black people,” they said. “I genuinely love all people, but my Black love is on another level.”