By Crystal Shaw
When Ezell Ford, an unarmed Black man was killed by LAPD officers in Los Angeles two days after Michael Brown's death in Ferguson, Missouri, it sent a clear message to many South L.A. residents, including one of his close personal friends, Brandy Brown. The message: Black lives don’t matter.
Youth organizing, heavily backed by Liberty Hill, has proved to be a powerful vehicle of change for young people of color in their neighborhoods, schools and communities with the right support and motivated organizers. This generation's lived experience is galvanizing their activism.
This couldn’t be truer for Brandy. The 24-year-old has been a youth organizer for several years with the Youth Justice Coalition. But the death of Ezell made her want to give it her everything.
“When Ezell got killed my daughter was one. My daughter was walking around saying ‘hands up don’t shoot.’ What does she know about ‘don’t shoot?’ She’s one years old! That’s not something she should have to worry about. And that’s my job to protect her so she doesn’t have to worry about that. That’s why I give it my all.”
Brandy has been participating in the OccupyLAPD movement through the Youth Justice Coalition, organized by Black Lives Matter: Los Angeles. Organizers have been camped out in front of the Los Angeles Police Department’s headquarters since December 29, protesting the killings of Ford and Omar Abrego in August. The ongoing encampment is taking place in an effort for LA Police Chief Charlie Beck to meet two demands: they want the officers responsible for Ezell Ford’s death to be terminated; they’re also demanding murder charges be filed against the officers based on an autopsy released in late December. Beck met with representatives from the movement on January 12, however no demands were met. OccupyLAPD continues.
Brandy has some strong opinions about the overall demonization of young people of color, which motivates her to continue to fight for change.
“I think, being a youth of color, we are challenged in the day and time we live in. . . . At first you used to hear kids saying, ‘I’m scared of the gang bangers, I’m scared to walk in the streets,’ but now you hear kids saying they’re scared of the police. And once you hear them saying ‘We’re scared of the police,' we need to open up our eyes because the police are supposed to protect us, not hurt us. My questions to the police are, ‘Am I next? Is my kid next? Is my nephew next?’ You never know who’s next and that kind of sucks that you have to live in a world like that."
Brandy said the next action being planned by the Youth Justice Coalition is a “Coffin March” to show reverence to people who have lost their lives and to let people know that, according to Brandy, “We care and we’re here and we feel their pain.” The action is tentatively scheduled to take place in March. Details are still being worked out and updates can be found on the Liberty Hill Facebook page as they’re made available.
Brandy Brown, first in a series of profiles: Young Organizers at liberty hill.org.
- When a chain of events point to a conclusion that Black lives simply don’t matter to some, it’s time to fight.
- When some schools and classrooms are focused on pushing youth through a system that should be preparing them for college, but instead is grooming them for a prison cell, it’s clear the time to fight is now.
- When there are systematic structures in place that are tearing families apart it’s clear that the time to fight is now.
- When LGBTQ youth, who are abandoned by their families, are pushed into the juvenile system at alarming rates, the time to fight is now -- and young people of color are rising to the challenge at every turn.
Some of the most noteworthy social justice activism is happening right now, and leading the movements in racial and gender discrimination and immigration are young people of color. Liberty Hill’s social justice partners in youth leadership have declared Los Angeles as ground zero in the fight for equality and justice with OccupyLAPD, #BlackLivesMatter, the fight against youth and family deportation with the ‘Not One More’ movement and more.
Youth Justice Coalition, Community Coalition, Innercity Struggle, Immigrant Youth Coalition, Gay-Straight Alliance Network and the Khmer Girls in Action are just some of the organizations with an investment in youth leadership that have been making strides and are fighting on the frontlines in some of the most dire situations facing youth of color today.