“We march because all, all, all, all lives matter!” Cornel William Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP, shouted to the cheers of 150 people.
Tension began to swell when Roslyn Brock, chairman of the NAACP’s National Board of Directors, made an assumption about the youth in the crowd.
“I want you to think about the consequences of your actions, because too many folks died for the right for us to be here,” Brock said. “The time is now, because courage cannot skip this generation.
What did Brock mean by confronting youth regarding the consequences of their actions? Was she blaming those in the room for looting and rioting? Her words reflected a deep disconnect with youth. Her words were perceived as disrespectful of the hard work of youth in organizing and showing up in Ferguson soon after the death of Michael Brown.
Michael Hassle challenged the NAACP marchers not to take pride “in marching 100-and-something miles, when we’ve been out there protesting for over 100-and-something days!”
The Rev. Cassandra Gould, pastor of Jefferson City’s Quinn Chapel AME Church, told the crowd she understands the “passion” of the younger protesters.
In Ferguson, youth managed violent protest the best they could. Youth organized on college campuses and communities across the nation. They have done so devoid of the support of adults. This is why youth dismiss the opinion of many civil rights icons. It’s why they asked Jesse Jackson to leave and question the motives of Al Sharpton. It’s why many turn a deaf ear to the voice of black clergy.
Many showed up too late, and many who showed up failed to consistently show up. Youth are demanding accountability, while older leaders are demanding respect for what happened long ago.
Brock told youth not forget those who led the civil rights efforts of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s “to move this nation forward, not backwards.”
Youth want to know why many failed to show up before the cameras took over.
“The time is now, because courage cannot skip this generation,” Brock said.
To that youth are asking a deeper question. Where have you been? Youth are not waiting for the baton to be passed on to their generation of leaders. They have created their own way, and aren’t looking for or asking for permission from those still stuck in an old strategy.
Instead of telling youth what to do, take notes.
The AKA’s and Delta’s are attempting to define the terms of protest. They want youth to keep their name out of the movement for justice. They don’t trust youth with their corporate brand. They’re afraid a picture will be taken with a looter wearing a t-shirt with their Greek letters.
They don’t get it!
This is not an AKA or Delta movement.
It’s a “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” and “I Can’t Breathe” movement.
Word of wisdom to old leaders - stand back and watch.
You showed up too late, and your baton is too short to pass on to these youth.
They carry a big stick.
And, in case you missed it, the stick isn’t used to beat people. Like Moses, youth use that big stick to point the way to justice.
They show up every night. They keep fighting, and they don’t need your permission.
That’s called a new day.