The feeling on the ground in St. Louis is rife with passion unseen in recent memory. As an African American millennial, I was heartened to see a groundswell of young people from all walks of life leading what will be the next Civil Rights Movement.

We often hear that millennials are apathetic; that we’re indifferent to, and uninterested in, political participation or civic engagement. This isn’t true. In St. Louis, where police killed Michael Brown and Vonderrit Myers, local youth are mobilizing a nation against state-sanctioned injustice.

The Rockaway Youth Task Force deemed it necessary to be a part of these conversations. We’re a youth-led organization composed entirely of Black and Latino young people.

Far Rockaway relates to Ferguson in that we are underserved and underrepresented. Police harassment and brutality are a daily reality in our community—as is poverty, and meager public health services. We are isolated by way of inefficient and unreliable transportation, perhaps the biggest hindrance to upward socioeconomic mobility. The deliberate marginalization and hyper-segregation of the Rockaway Peninsula cultivates underperformance. We traveled to Ferguson with our reality in mind.

I was heartened to see that Black women led most elements of direct action. Our unique struggles as women of color are often overlooked and unacknowledged due to centuries of patriarchal oppression. The sacrifices we make are overshadowed and downplayed, causing an uneven stereotype that only hetero-normative males lead movements.

But in Ferguson, as I stood on the frontlines protecting protesters from police, I linked arms with other Black and Brown women who unabashedly evoke their belief in justice. They remind me of the young women in RYTF who have no qualms about stepping up and advancing their vision of a gender equitable society.

With this in mind, we went to Ferguson committed to helping turn this moment into a movement.

The next step is the National Week of Action, an impressive initiative that urges people in their local neighborhoods to partake in some form of community uplift. The Week of Action takes place October 20th through 26th.

Our Day of Service falls on October 25th. An effort to commemorate our resiliency during Super Storm Sandy, we recognize that pro-community empowerment is vital to growth. We will build up our community garden; creating a recreational and educational hub for Rockaway residents. Once complete, our garden will allow residents to grow their own healthy food, while engaging with one another in a safe and welcoming environment.

This is the spirit in which St. Louis prevails. From Far Rockaway to Ferguson, we need to mobilize young people into thinking through the broader strokes of social justice.

Arielle NewtonComment