“Children are to be seen and not heard,” is the paternal black mantra I heard in my childhood from many of my elders.
Today, many from my millennial generation have defied that ideal and taken their thoughts to social media. These acts have sparked a new wave of social activism and movements that brought the nation to its knees.
It was black youth that kept making the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter trend with the global media following along. The number of youths on college campuses and in the streets protesting is increasing and diversifying.
To many of our older critics, we are too outlandish and lack direction given our new ways of addressing the current political injustice and discrimination we face.
While visiting the NAACP Convention this past week in Philadelphia, despite the growing controversy surrounding their lack of public youth at the face of their advocacy for racial equality and justice, I noticed another problem. The models to which the NAACP and other prestigious diverse advocacy groups inspire their youth are outdated.
More than once in every keynote speech about the future were constant reminders of the founding fathers and sisters of the Civil Rights movement. This is not to say that these legends aren’t worthy of mention, but what about those who are currently shaping our national dialogue?
When attending these events, you are greeted with veteran activists who bestow great wisdom and words to youth, but this often clashes with the current Millennials’ ability to mobilize with the now.
“What do you think the Twitter and the Instagram really gonns to do?” an elder NAACP delegate told me. “You should be out there in those streets marchin’ like King and 'em did back in the day.”
Many of us do protest, but that really isn’t as effective when it doesn't produce a digital footprint that ensures media coverage and additional global perspectives.
Contrary to popular belief, social activist groups, such as the NAACP, don't have a youth involvement issue given they have one of the highest percentages of young adults in various internal branches of leadership. However, I do believe that such organizations lack the necessary audacity to visually and verbally include young people in the overall narrative of the current racial equality movement.
And this is a shame given that much of the recent publicized police killings deal with black youth. #BlackLivesMatter came as a response to such deaths as Travyon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Rekia Boyd and Yvette Smith. There are countless others that aren’t mentioned that have motivated many young people in this country to find their own personal way to take a stand.
What we need right now is a generational acceptance of the way in which the world sees activism today in spite of how it was in yesteryear.
People can no longer march together in a group and sing “We Shall Overcome” in 2015 because the world we live in requires more strategy and nuance than that.
We need academics, scholars, clergy, politicians, Facebookers and Twitter users in this fight. And yes, black youth should be included at the forefront of that.