Young leaders respond to current unrest

December 17, 2014
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It is evident that black youth have been responsible for drawing attention to the inhumanity of police killing black people.

Many youth feel that their voices are being drowned out by elder activists who have a platform and will not give them an opportunity to speak, lead or direct the steps of a movement that they have created.

One such young man is 26-year-old Marseil Jackson of the Jackson Action Coalition.

I have known Mr. Jackson for some time now from attending the same church. Mr. Jackson confided in me that “his spirit was vexed” by all of the attention being placed on the same old go-to elder activists.

He was concerned with the elder activists’ inability to give the youth credit for all of their work in creating and sustaining this phase of the movement.

I told Mr. Jackson what my dad told me many years ago when I was in a similar position. My father told me that “power concedes nothing without a struggle.”

I decided to reach out to another dynamic young lady from the Westside, Ms. Johnetta “Awthentik” Anderson, a poet extraordinaire who had many of the same concerns. I wanted to connect these young people so that they could just talk.

Well, not only did they talk, but they decided to call a meeting of young leaders under 30 from the West Side with two goals: to meet others with like minds and to create an action plan for youth leaders on the West Side.

I was blown away by the caliber of the attendees and their level of sophistication.

There was the granddaughter of the late great community activist Marion Stamps as well as the daughter and granddaughter of the late great Ray Easley.

I also spotted Mr. Maurice Robinson, whose cousin is one of the behind the scenes giants in organizing.

There were others in the room I did not know, but their commitment was evident by their activist backgrounds.

I did my best to stay silent, which was very difficult, but I did not want to taint the organic process of youth coming together on their own terms.

I heard things like “we must continue to protest, but we must also continue to organize our dollars.” Wow! I was struck right in the heart.

I heard things like “either they are going to cut us in or cut it out.” Then I heard them talking about a youth educational summit.

I have no doubt that the black West Side youth can speak, lead and direct this next phase of their movement. I believe that it is our job now as “elder activists” to guide, not lead.

We must give them the space to learn on their own terms and encourage them to vote, to seek political office and to hold our politicians accountable.

We must encourage them to open businesses in our community, and let their voices be heard because the winds of change are moving in their direction.

Malcolm Crawford is executive director of the Austin African American Business Networking Association (AAABNA) and with his wife operates Sankofa Cultural Arts & Business Center.

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