HUNGER STRIKERS SPARKED local activism as they persuaded city officials in August to keep Dyett High School in Washington Park open.
Social injustice, disparities shows need for Black activism
They represent a variety of organizations and believe the key to their ultimate success is by having small egos, no official leader and building a multi-racial coalition that is inclusive of everyone with a common goal: social justice. They are the emerging new community youth organizers and activists.
From taking on the University of Chicago for a trauma center; demanding lesbian and gay members get fair treatment; urging their elders to stop celebrating R. Kelly on award shows; and demanding police accountability, no social topic is off limits to this generation of teens and young adults.
While Chicago has a history of Black activism that goes back for decades, the city right now is the epicenter touched off by the Laquan McDonald shooting and perceived bungling of the investigation.
Youth from every community and of every race have been marching and protesting, demanding Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s resignation, while also questioning the role and motives of the area’s Black political leadership.
At times, the conversation has been hard for many older Black Americans to hear—the fact their generation may have dropped the ball or become complacent in modest gains.
“We are calling on President Obama to come back to Chicago and ask for his friend Rahm Emanuel to resign since he is the one who endorsed him twice to our community,” says Ja’Mal Green, who led a protest outside of the President’s Hyde Park home last week. “I think we are trying to use the techniques used by previous Black leaders with a 2015 twist. We understand that any successful movement is going to need younger generations with all of our energy to lead the charge.”
Lamon Reccord—perhaps the most notable of all the new activists—also happens to be the youngest. The photograph of 16-year-old Reccord standing face-to-face—or rather nose-to-nose with a Chicago police officer during a protest outside of police headquarters a few weeks ago— went viral and reflected the raw emotion of the issue of police brutality.
Reccord, who friends say is a highly energetic fun guy, who is loyal to his friends and community, lives in Chatham. He has been giving law enforcement the fits according to one Black police officer, who said his antics intimidate his colleagues, although he is not violent and only expressing himself.
However, Reccord’s, “in your face” tactics are mostly symbolic as his greatest strength seems to be putting a voice to what young people are thinking and demanding that they be heard.
“I think for too long we have been ignored, and now we are saying ‘you are not going to do that anymore’,” stated Reccord. “What’s happening right now in Chicago is a cultural and societal change that is multifaceted. People from all over are fed up with injustice around the world, and I think that is why you are seeing so many people get involved. Forcing the mayor’s hand in the firing of McCarthy gave people hope that we can affect change.”
Veronica Morris-Moore was introduced to the group BYP 100 by a friend. She took a special interest in the fight to get the University of Chicago to open a Level I trauma center on the South Side.
After years of arrests, public protests and condemnations from members of the community calling for a potential boycott of the Barack Obama Presidential Library construction, the U of C last week bent to pressure and announced a trauma center would come to their Hyde Park campus.
For Morris-Moore it was a victory for the entire community.
“I think it showed what young people could do without the help of elected officials,” she said. “It empowered us on so many levels and renewed our energy.”
Morris-Moore has also supported Chicago Public School students at Daniel Hale Williams School, who staged a sit-in demanding a school librarian be rehired. While speaking at an event in Chatham on Dec. 22 titled, “More than Bullets: A Public Forum for Chicago,” she said there are multiple issues in Chicago that need to be addressed after years of neglect.
While all of the young activists understand they are playing an important role in bringing about change, none of them are seeking fame and fortune. They believe that is where some of the older leaders of the Civil Rights Movement lost their way, and, in essence, lost the respect and credibility of the community.
Without naming names, they said they are going to keep doing their thing without excluding anyone, but at the same time, they are not going to allow anyone to hog the spotlight.
“This is serious stuff, and we cannot be sidetracked by a sideshow of people wanting face time. That’s an application for your cellphone,” said one protester to gathered media at a protest in Daley Plaza last week.