Youth Groups Working for Ferguson’s Future

Young leaders are using traditional organizing methods as well as new-school tools such as social media in the fight for equality and an end to police brutality.

Protesters kneel in the street outside the police department in Ferguson, Mo., during a protest on Aug. 30, 2014, over the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer on Aug. 9. 
Protesters kneel in the street outside the police department in Ferguson, Mo., during a protest on Aug. 30, 2014, over the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer on Aug. 9.  Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

Why hold out for a hero when you can save yourself?

When protests erupted in Ferguson, Mo., after the police shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, it wasn’t the black establishment of the St. Louis bedroom community taking it to the streets; it was Brown’s peers. Kids in their teens. Young adults in their 20s. Some knew him. Others did not. But what they all had in common was that they’d had enough of waiting for things to get better.

For them, Brown’s death could not be in vain. Now was the time for organization, for action.

With the rallying cries of “Hands up, don’t shoot!” and “Our lives matter,” young people of color are the real leaders emerging in the aftermath of the shooting in Ferguson. Their efforts were born out of fear and anger over police overreach and brutality, and the faces of those efforts are fresh, determined, youth-led groups using traditional organizing and nontraditional tools such as social media. These activists linking up for the same goal, whether they’re on the ground in Ferguson or in front of their laptops halfway across the country.

Meet the faces of today’s fight for equality.

#NMOS14 and #SEPT6CTA

Michelle Watson Taylor first suggested, over Twitter, that there should be a moment of silence for those killed in police brutality. But Taylor, known online as Feminista Jones, didn’t want to lead the endeavor, instead encouraging those inspired by the idea to become leaders of the effort. Through Twitter, she reached out to individuals across the country who, on Aug. 10, became organizers, doing the heavy lifting to create gatherings in their cities. Volunteers created logos, found meeting places and promoted the event. The result? A National Moment of Silence (#NMOS14) on Aug. 14 that led to activists hosting vigils in 90 U.S. cities for those killed by police officers.

What’s next? #NMOS14 is steadily evolving, and largely online. Sept. 6 was designated a day of action for groups fighting police brutality, encouraging groups and individuals to host teach-ins, rallies and town hall meetings to help create the next steps in the movement.

Hands Up United

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