BHM: Faces from the new civil rights movement – Alexis Templeton and Brittany Ferrell of Millennial Activists United
February 27, 2015
We are actually living within the birth of a revolution currently within the USA, the future of this country is beginning to shift as Black people in this country begin to pick up and tie loose ends where the Civil Rights movement left off in the fight for equal rights. The spark that began this flame of what has now been been titled the Black Lives Matter movement, a statement that demands the world to acknowledge that all Black lives are subconsciously deemed disposable, and with that admission to differ that narrative. Through this onset of many protest and public outcries a spawning of new of grass root organizations has come about. One organization very intrical in many of the protest currently in Ferguson Missouri are the Millennial Activists United whose mission is to build powers and leadership to create sustainable communities. Lead by three young women Alexis Templeton, Ashley Yates and Brittany Ferrell who are determined to keep the fight for justice very fluid, relevant and its narrative recorded correctly. I had the pleasure of speaking with two of the three founders, Alexis Templeton and Brittany Ferrell about what’s currently happening in our country and what they hope to see change.
By Queen, AFROPUNK Contributor
Partners Alexis Templeton and Brittany Ferrell
When asked why they felt there was a need for new Black centered organization to be created, and why not continue on with the many organizations birthed during the Civil Rights movement, they both replied with responses that spoke of women and members of the LGBT community not being visibly present in past movements, which is a problem. Much of Black history is taught to us from with the Black men as the centered focus. Brittany went on to say “It’s not on purpose, we live in a society where men are generally made the center of everything, the world doesn’t purposely choose Black men over Black women”.
Which I would agree, I don’t believe black men purposely put themselves in the center focus of our fight for justice, it’s a social norm that many aren’t aware of, but that narrative has to change, and is changing do to organizations like MAU. Alexis added that she believes that since the Civil Rights movement was very centered around the Black church that narrative was pushed forward.
.“There are scriptures in the bible, sorry I can’t remember exactly which at the moment, that say a woman is subserviant to men, and also homosexuality is a sin. I just didn’t seem right at that time to attach these things to the cause.”
We all briefly acknowledge that Bayard Rustin was an important figure in the Civil Rights Movement, who worked very closely with Dr. King; yet he worked in the deepest shadows not because he was a closeted gay man, but because he wasn’t trying to hide who he was, it was considered to be a liability. That isn’t happening in this current movement at all, The faces of women and Black people of the LGBT community are are very present, visible and in most cases beacons of distinguishable solidarity within the Black community.
There has been criticism of the many protest that are presently going on, public figures such as Oprah Winfrey and Al Sharpton have publicly made statements. From the perspective of people who may be not involved in the movement it could be interpreted as hurtful and dismissive of the many sacrifices people are making to fight for justice.
“There are no clear leaders” are some of the responses said by Oprah Winfrey when asked about the Black Lives Matter movement when she was promoting the movie Selma, which was centered around the march in Selma during the Civil Rights Movement.
Sharpton’s and Winfrey’s defense is to infantilize the young activists, to deflect the implicit indictment of what currently passes for Black leadership by framing the conflict as generational, rather than substantive. Sharpton launched into a panicked rant at a recent meeting of his National Action Network, in Harlem:
“Anytime you have movements, whether it’s in Ferguson, whether it’s in New York, whether it’s in Denver, wherever it is, when they got you more angry at your parents then they got you at the vote you’re supposed to be out there for, you’re being tricked and you’re trying to turn the community into tricks. And they are pimping you, to do the Willie Lynch in our community,” (BlackReport.com)
When I asked Brittany and Alexis about these statements they both had lots to say. As far as Oprah they both felt she has a disconnect from Black people currently in the trenches because she is wealthy, and has been for a long time. Also, the way in which these movements are currently spreading and the information is being shared is (mainly through social networks) people of older generations don’t understand or are fully aware of what is currently happening.
Al Sharpton actions and many of the statements he make seem to be reactions to not being the center of the movement, and doesn’t seem to understand that because the youth are using solutions to achieve social justice with new innovative ways doesn’t mean it’s the wrong approach.
“Al Sharpton seems to want all of this to be about him, this is not about him, this is about us, this is about Justice, this is about change. This is bigger than just one person, I wish they would understand that.” was Brittany response to Al Sharpton’s statements.
A very heavy statement that does seem to be lost among the bickering coming from the nay sayers of the the many movements going on around the country.
Much attention has been paid to Black influential figures who have negative things to say, but many have been supportive. As told by Brittany she has received kind words from people like Harry Belafonte. They have met with Cornel West and Spike Lee who have all said good things, and have told them to keep fighting. Alexis states her grandfather’s words were the ones that touched her the most. He is a retired office of St Louis police department, who simply told her to “keep at it”. To have her grandfather tell her that let her know the path she chose for justice was the correct one.
The majority of the movements that have gone forth are non violent protest with goals of civil disobedience. I couldn’t help but ask if they felt the non violence approach is effective and how long can we keep the movement non-violent. They both agreed that the non violence approach is effective and the best way to start.
Alexis – “We will inconvenience people until we get what we want, we’ll continue to block your highways, make you late for work, we will disturb your shopping, we will make people pay attention.”
A common sentiment amongst protester. Black lives are beyond inconvenienced, abused and treated as subhuman, these protest are actually the small inconvenience in relation to the way Black people live in this country daily. Peace is always the goal, but realistically this is a movement sparked because of violence, and although all protests have started with peaceful intentions, the opposition always counters that. They were met with police officers dressed in riot gear shooting tear gas, clearly a precursors to commit violence.
“We want to keep this movement nonviolent, people’s lives are at stake. We don’t want to lose anymore Black lives, but yes violence is inevitable. That’s what happens in war and revolution, so yes violence will happen. What I can say is that from our side, violence will not be the intent, violence will not be our starting point. If violence happens it will begin from the side of the opposer, not from us.”-Brittany
The journey will be long, hard and will meet many twists and turns along the way, but it’s necessary. Organizations like the Millennial Activist United are intrical in helping guide and set the tone of the Black Lives Matter movement. The differences in the path of the past and present Black movements for social justice are evident, but the goal is the same, and that’s the key piece that can not be left out. Social Justice, full liberation and equality for Black people in this target. Lets not lose sight of the goal, it is the movement that gives birth to leaders, not the reverse. We have only just begun this journey, so lets all at the very least be grateful for those who are making sacrifices for Black Lives, and our future. Thank you to these lovely young women who decided to come together and being mobile for my freedom, our freedom.
* Twitter @TheQueenSpeaks_