WASHINGTON — The Justice or Else gathering held before hundreds of thousands of people on the National Mall Oct. 10 featured the voices of emerging new leadership in America. In fact, many said the overwhelming success of the gathering had the footprint of youth all over it.
“The core organization of the gathering was done through social media,” observed Native American activist YoNasDa Lonewolf. “This Joshua generation is able to see through the falsehood and insincerity” demonstrated by some of the traditional and political leaders.
Ms. Lonewolf pointed out native Black Foot leader Gyassi Ross as an example, noting his bold declarations as part of the program where he called for a revisit to the racist Discovery Doctrine and Papal Bulls, governmental and religious declarations that helped to destroy Native people.
In fact, what was striking at the demonstration was the absence of traditional civil rights leaders. In their place were young leaders like Carmen Perez with the New York Justice League who voiced support for the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan’s efforts during his organizing visit to New York.
What is great about this movement is its inclusiveness, Latino, Black, Mexican, and native communities, she said. Her specific focus is to end the school-to-prison pipeline and her demand for justice for young people. She also credited her involvement to her Justice League colleague Tamika Mallory, another strong young voice that participated in the program.
“What we are witnessing today is a natural evolution in leadership, new voices that are not controlled and are clear,” said Abel Muhammad, an emerging Latino leader in the Nation of Islam. “In the past, Black leadership and leadership of people of color were largely controlled and sanctioned.”
The diversity of the young audience participating in the rally included not only Native and Latino faces, but also Asian, African, and the Caribbean. And despite the hue of their skin, many of them wore shirts that read, “Black Lives Matter,” a movement that played an important role in the rally.
Sparked by the brutal murder of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman and further energized by the police murder of Michael Brown, the BLM movement has galvanized young people into active protest in a way that hasn’t been seen in decades.
However, similar to circumstances that arise whenever voices appear that could unite Blacks and people of color, the Black Lives Matter movement has been under fire lately due to a calculated campaign by conservative political forces to label the group as a “hate group.”
In response, cofounder Opal Tometi tweeted: “These trolls & conservative media conglomerates are on one! Calling BLM a hate group is not only factually wrong, it’s dangerous.”
“To me, Black Lives Matter means Black people are treated equally under the system,” said Amanda Nelson, who rode the train from Maryland to get to the rally. “Not just the justice system, but every system in America the same as White people are treated. Too many are losing their lives.”
Seventeen-year-old Darrell Davis from Ithaca, N.Y., attended with a group of friends from his high school wearing #BlackLivesMatter hoodies. They took three cars to travel from their home city to get to Washington.
“I’m not used to coming somewhere and seeing this many Black people gathered, at least not for a good cause,” young Davis said. “The sense of unity is really cool. I feel comfortable.
Usually, going out in public, there’s some sense of wanting to look around…Here, it’s just a good sense of unity and it makes you want to go back home and just emphasize being one with what we need to do, because there’s a bigger cause than us going against each other, really.”
Davis’ basketball coach took about 40 Black boys and girls from their school to a conference in Cleveland, Ohio. He recalls that when they came back, they were spreading the word about how awesome it was. So when his coach brought up going to the Million Man March anniversary, he was willing to go.
“My coach explained it as really historical and something you’d only see once,” the teenager said. “We got our t-shirts, and just started really spreading the movement through New York. So a lot of people heard about it.”
Students Ashia Evans, Braylin Rushton and Shienne Williams came from the Black Student Union at Youngstown State University (YSU) to unite with their people.
“We need the solidarity, man,” Mr. Rushton said. “There’s so many people that don’t care and it’s important that we form in a group of solidarity and stand against things that need to be changed. We’re inheriting this — we’re inheriting all of this and next it goes on to our children and so forth. We got to make a change somewhere.”
These students are currently fighting against the school-to-prison pipeline in their city, which refers to policies and practices that push the most at-risk children out of the classroom and into the penitentiary.
“They’re trying to shut down our public school system,” said Shienne Williams, 20. “We can’t let that happen.”
Ms. Williams was among 20 YSU students who were able to travel by bus provided by the Muslim brotherhood in Youngstown, free of charge, because the chairperson of the Africana Studies Department got them funding.
“Today, we get some direction and some guidance,” Ms. Williams said. “I feel like we’ve had a lot of separate movements going on, but Minister Farrakhan brings us all into one solid group where we can go back into our communities and make things happen. We can collaborate with each other instead of being a bunch of different separate movements we can come together and resurrect the Black man.”
Makayla Gillian Price, a 17-year-old activist from Baltimore, attended the rally and also spoke at a Justice Or Else pre-rally Oct. 9.
“I think the [rally] is extremely symbolic of the power of our community,” she said. “I just could not turn down the opportunity to be part of this movement. It will create momentum. I don’t think the [rally] itself is an act of civil disobedience, but I think just that showing of unity is enough of a threat. That in and of itself is the ‘or Else.’”
Kwame Rose, 21, also from Baltimore, is founder of Black Excellence, a foundation that helps provides Black youth with the necessary resources and networks to accomplish any dream that they have.
In Baltimore, Rose meets with several other young people, including Ms. Price, to organize public demonstrations, present demands, meet with police commissioners, demand accountability and that their voices are heard.
The future of leadership is in fact bright. Many young people across the world are rising up against tyranny and oppression, and several of them showed their faces in Washington, D.C, to demand Justice Or Else.
For more information visit: www.justiceorelse.com. •