By Tamika Butler, Director of Social Change Strategies
The Brothers, Sons, Selves Coalition, a strategic partnership between Liberty Hill and The California Endowment, sponsored #Our Lives Matter, a youth-led "Teach In/Speak Out" rally for justice for Michael Brown and Ezell Ford. Here's a report Tamika made to Liberty Hill Foundation staff shortly after the event.
Hi all-- I'm just getting home from an amazing rally and march through the streets of South LA. Brothers, Sons, Selves worked together to organize this event in a very short time window as a response to the recent killing of Ezell Ford in South LA, Mike Brown in Ferguson, and a number of other young people of color that were taken from us too soon.
It's hard to put the day into words, but inspiring is a good start. Every group in the coalition had representatives there and this was a visual reminder of the way in which BSS uniquely brings youth to the forefront of every single thing we do AND brings together communities of young people who might not otherwise see the links between their struggles. The image of signs with Black fists raised high next to rainbow flags blowing in the wind was something of beauty and solidarity I won't forget as it was especially meaningful to me as a queer black woman.
The young men were confident, passionate, and determined to make sure their community understood that their lives mattered. The young men repeatedly vowed that they would not become another dead youth in the street and would not be another youth of color on TV being portrayed negatively. Instead, they spoke of positivity and respecting their neighborhood, while courageously fighting for change.
It was amazing to see the young people lead chants and engage with community members who came out of stores, homes, and cars to ask what we were doing and often joining the march with us to show solidarity. The police were present for every part of the march, on motorcycle, in squad cars, on bikes, and with their helicopters. That did not deter our youth and there were no issues thanks to the volunteers who provided security from BSS member organizations.
When the young people were given a chance to "speak out" they shared stories of being undocuqueer, detained, and almost deported, of being passed from foster home to foster home and unable to get an education, and of being unable to walk in their own neighborhoods without facing police harassment.
It was fantastic to see youth from every organization speak about what BSS meant to them and how important BSS was to the action. The reality is, BSS is nothing without the young men and organizations who make the work possible and meaningful. Karen (Driscoll) and I are lucky and honored to work with them each and every day.
Thanks to everyone here for all of your support as this has been a crazy week of planning for the BSS team. To see pictures check out the BSS twitter (@BrosSonsSelves #OurLivesMatter and on Facebook. There's also news coverage at the link below.