This morning, I imagined Marvin Gaye would have a few things to say about what’s going on today:
Today was supposed to be Michael Brown’s fourth day in college, getting acclimated with the ins and outs of college life, surely different than the humdrum K-12 bells. Sadly, he never got his chance at college and career readiness as the Ferguson police’s hands still smell of blood and tear gas. We never got the chance to see Michael Brown past the few pictures that the media has offered and the sharp image of him mother mourning. The names of young women and men who also had their potential stolen from them read like one of my student rosters at school.
Then it hit me. The activism around Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Renisha McBride, and, more recently, Michael Brown, ripe with young folk doing amazing speaking and organizing, should serve as a reminder to adults a) how much we as adults often look down upon younger generations and b) how much potential the next generations have to move people forward.
In spite of the tragedy and strife of concluding that these public institutions aren’t made for youth of color in mind, our nation’s youth move in ways that adults can’t, so let them. Instead of telling adults, “Here’s what we used to do in the 60’s, so in order to be activists, here’s what you need to do,” we should be saying, “How can we help in your activism?”
Anytime we put ego and nostalgia over selflessness and progress, we lose.
Many of our favorite activists were high-school to college-age when they came into their advocacy young. The ones who were chased by dogs, thrown into trucks, and beaten without provocation were in high school and college, taking days off to work in communities and do the groundwork of the leaders. I see similar energy in spaces right now. Some adults are helping to facilitate these actions. Some adults are taking credit and / or snitching to elders for the sake of looking loyal.
Stop. Adults, if you’re not helping, get out of the way. The “kids” are alright.