“Warriors…instead of building each other up, we are at war with each other…I’m with you young warriors. You’re me and I’m you. But trust me! You are fighting the wrong war.”
Nas, Hip Hop Artist
Less than 48 hours before 16-year-old honor roll student Derrion Albert was brutally murdered in Chicago; days before internationally-renowned peacemaker Alex Sanchez was unjustly serving his 100th day in federal prison for crimes he did not commit; and days before groups of conscious people came together from South Africa to Los Angeles to dialogue and develop new venues for multiple generations to come together and utilize all the beauty, all the talents, and all the latest technology to advance movements for social and economic justice.
Days before all of this, I found myself inside an exclusive and very expensive fundraiser for the Los Angeles Police Protective League wondering how I got there and why was I even choosing to stay.
History has taught me and my personal experiences have reinforced the idea that activists often times stay on one side of the yellow tape while ‘the state’ (a.k.a. law enforcement and too many politicians) commit to staying on the opposite side of the divide.
However, as one side of history was creeping into my mind, thoughts of Martin Luther King Jr. confronting and then eventually working with his accusers flooded my mind. Images of Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez looking straight into U.S. Attorney General Bobby Kennedy’s eyes and expressing the moral imperative of joining the farm workers fight in the fields. Images of Rosa Parks standing strong and opening the nation’s eyes to discrimination. Or of Mahatma Gandhi taking on an entire empire advocating for the dignity of all people. All of these individuals reminded me of the need to engage with and pressure the multiple sides of civil society – even those who have hurt you, even those who have betrayed you, and sometimes even those who may have attempted to kill you.
At that moment, I had what some would call an epiphany, a realization that we, as social justice activists, had to organize a way to genuinely engage with and actively work with those within the arena of public policy and legislation. At that moment, I realized more than ever the dire need to not only hold those with authority accountable, but to find concrete ways within and outside of the system where community could work with elected officials and even with law enforcement.
We are witnessing a growing youth social movement that many dismiss because it looks different than movements of the past. We are wit