On Aug. 9, 2014, 18-year-old Michael Brown had his life unexpectantly cut short. He had been shot by a police officer and lay dead in a Ferguson, Mo., street for more than four hours. To many, his demise harkened back to a mournful time in our country’s history when images of Black bodies hanging from trees were all too common an occurence. What erupted in the following months was the passionate aftermath of justice denied, unearthing a growing movement (ignited by the death of Trayvon Martin) seeking to expose and even change the status quo. The cry? Enough is enough. The goal? To live in a country where Black lives matter.
Those at the crest of this wave are millennial organizers connected by breakneck technology, unbridled youth and a greater understanding of direct-action tactics. Their worldview has been shaped by mass incarceration, hip-hop, the first African-American president (who recently met with several of these young leaders at the White House) and the veneer of desegregation. They organize locally but think globally, and choose decentralized, group-centered leadership over charismatic figureheads. They hail from all corners of America. They are hashtag creators, feminists, rappers, humanists, college graduates, queers, ministers, anti-capitalists, intellectuals and artists. They are smart, they are strategic and they are brave. But most of all, they are ready. Are you?
The 29-year-old heads the Florida-based organization credited with keeping Trayvon Martin’s story in the national news. Its overall goal is to eliminate the assumption of Blacks as criminals, Latinos as illegals and poor people as less-than. I’M FIGHTING BECAUSE
I believe that before I die, we’ll be in a better place than we were when my generation first entered the world. THIS YEAR our work continues to address police brutality and balancing the scales between law enforcement and the community. WHAT WE NEED TO DO is realize that protests have brought us far, but we must use everything we have to see victory in this war. LEARN MORE: @Dreamdefenders or DreamDefenders.org
PATRISSE CULLORS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DIGNITY AND POWER NOW (DPN)
This 31-year-old co-created the #BlackLivesMatter movement and is responsible for DPN’s civilian oversight of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. THIS YEAR we plan to train people across L.A. in civil disobedience and direct action. IF I COULD WAVE MY JUSTICE WAND 1 percent of the law enforcement budget would go into community organizations, green space, job creation, the development of peacekeepers and gang interventionists. BLACK LIVES MATTER IS not just about the fight for young Black boys; it’s a fight for all Black lives. LEARN MORE: @PowerDignity; dignityandpowernow.org; @Blklivesmatter; blacklivesmatter.com
CHARLENE CARUTHERS, NATIONAL DIRECTOR, BLACK YOUTH PROJECT 100 (BYP 100)
BYP 100 is an organization of Black 18-to-35-year-olds whose mission is to pursue justice and freedom for all Black people.
According to Caruthers, 29, I see a world without prisons and more community alternatives to dealing with conflict. WHAT WE NEED TO DO IS make sure that we’re involved in organizations that share our values with regard to creating a more just and loving world. And we should support the young people who are doing this work! RACE STILL MATTERS BECAUSE it can dictate whether you’re stopped by the police or shot and killed, regardless of gender. Race is a social construct but has very real consequences. LEARN MORE: @BYP_100; byp100.org
RASHAD ROBINSON, Executive Director, Color of Change
Robinson, 36, leads a national Black civil rights organization that doesn’t believe in taking big corporate money. Laws are important, he says, but if you don’t change the culture, you won’t get those laws to work. WE’RE FOCUSED ON … local news coverage and challenging stations that disproportionally show Black folks as criminals compared to other communities. We will be issuing reports comparing coverage to crime stats broken down by race, shining a light on those doing both a good and bad job. We will start with report cards on the NYC market this spring. I’M FIGHTING FOR a bipartisan bill that deals with police accountability, criminal justice reform and the way the Department of Justice funds local law enforcement, specifically regarding the war on drugs.
LEARN MORE: @ColorOfChange; colorofchange.org
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