Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Black sororities forbid members from wearing Greek-letter paraphernalia during protest

You can’t wear your Greek-letter paraphernalia when you protest the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

That’s the official word coming from the heads of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.  Both sororities have stood on the frontline in promoting community service and social justice in the black community. Why would the women wearing green and salmon (AKA) and cream and crimson (DST) forbid their sorors from promoting their participation in the protest against police brutality?

What damage can come from sporting a t-shirt with those celebrated Greek letters?  Is the official word from the big shots a statement against the protest, or is this a way for the more seasoned membership to keep youth in their proper place?

Translation, don’t mess with the corporate brand.

Recent actions of black institutions expose a deep generation divide that could impact the future of black activism. As older black leaders seek ways to manage protest, youth are outraged over the criticism they receive after putting everything on the line for the cause? A variety of assumptions are made regarding youth that feeds the expansion of the schism between older leaders and youth.

In Columbia, Missouri, members of the local chapter of the NAACP challenged college students not to march after the grand jury decision related to the death of Michael Brown was read.  Mary Ratliff, state president of the NAACP, informed students their planned march wasn’t sanctioned by the national body, and there was no way to assure their safety.

She asked them not to protest.

“This is not a youth movement,” Ratliff informed those gathered at the Second Missionary Baptist Church to hear the ruling. “It’s up to us who have done this before.”

The protest couldn’t wait for corporate approval.

Youth showed up after members of the NAACP marched 130-miles from Ferguson, Missouri to the Missouri State Capitol.  Seventy-five dedicated people endued all kinds of weather and racist confrontations along the way to the capitol.

“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.

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