#ThisIsActivism

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Activism in this country is not new. It’s not situated or mandated for one race of people and yet, it typically liberates one group of people - the disenfranchised who are marginalized into situations and systems that are set-up to fail them, even though those same systems are disguised as helping hands. 

The past few years have ignited a new wave of activists who are on the front lines every day fighting for what’s right in their communities. The Wayfinder Foundation is launching a new campaign, #ThisIsActivism where stories of out-of-the box, attention grabbing actions will be shared and celebrated. 

This is the first edition of #ThisIsActivism:

A 15-year old Black teen is killed in DC and the community is mobilizing, by Tanzi West Barbour

Activist Ronald Moten did what he knows best when he heard about yet another young Black teen killed in the Ward 8 section of the city. He began to organize his community to fight back against the violence. “I been at this for a long time DC. Y’all know me. You know how I respond. I don’t sleep. How can anyone sleep when our Black babies are still dying every day in this city?” said Moten.

Jaylyn Wheeler was a freshman at Ballou High School. He was killed in an alley two blocks from his school. And although his death is still being investigated, Moten and his crew aren’t waiting for the official word. 

Moten went on Facebook sharing this video:

After more than 9,000 views, nearly 400 shares and 300 comments including one from a mother who said her son tried to save Jaylyn’s life. “He died in my son’s arms,” she said in response to Moten’s video. 

Since then a Mayoral Candidate Youth Forum was held on Saturday, May 19th. The current Mayor did not attend and a Stop the Violence vigil is being planned for Friday, May 25th led by Moten and mothers of young victims of violence.

What’s more is natives to the nation’s capital have come together in response to an article in Washingtonian magazine entitled “I’m not a Tourist: Native Washingtonians” that featured only white people in its pictorial display of native Washingtonians. Longtime DC activist, Tony Lewis, was not happy. So he quickly pulled together his own photo shoot inviting all people who were born and went to school in Washington, DC. More than 200 people met at Union Market, a new gentrified area of Northeast DC for a redo of the poor display of diversity photo shoot for the magazine. People bought t-shirts and used #Native to voice their outrage.

“We’re still here!” shouted Lewis. “You aren’t rid of us yet!” 

This is Activism.

Mariachi anyone? By Justin C. Cohen

Activism doesn’t always have to be in the form of a rally or protest. The point of activism is being heard and fighting back. When attorney Aaron Scholssberg went on a racist rant in Midtown Manhattan in New York demanding Spanish-speaking employees speak English, little did he know that he was activating an enormous response that sent a mariachi band to his home along with hundreds of protesters.

“The message that we’re sending to him is not just to him. It’s to every single person in America - every single racist. If they think they can openly attack our communities, man, there’s going to be a response,” said organizer Carlos Jesus Calzadilla.

This is Activism.

Activism through Education by Angela Jones Hackley

Derrick Parker is 2018 Valedictorian of Morehouse College. As the first child of six to attend college, Derrick said he knew his parents couldn’t afford to send him to college, so he worked hard in high school so they didn’t have to. In return, he received was awarded a Gates Millenium Scholarship to fully cover his tuition at Morehouse. 

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During his graduation speech, this 4.0 students revealed that he received offers from 19 different law schools. He’s decided to attend Harvard. And while all of that may be true, the message I heard from Derrick while waiting to cheer on my Godson who I saw walk down the aisle to his seat with tears streaming down his face, was “I have chosen education as my path to activism.”

He gave his fellow Morehouse brethren a call-to-action that went something like “It is up to us to change the world. We are what our parents have been waiting for.” he told the other 389 graduating young men. I realized at that moment we were sitting among some of the greatest minds of our time. Most of whom looked just like my Godson - young, gifted, educated, and Black. 

I work in a sector where activism typically shows up in a couple of ways - a rally, a blog, a day at the state capitol, or a petition. However, on this day, I bore witness to activism through education. And for that, I am grateful.

This is Activism.

Justice for Saheed Vassell by Justin C. Cohen

Last Thursday, the family of Saheed Vassell and a group of local activists demanded answers from the New York Police Department. Just a month earlier, on April 4, Saheed - an unarmed black man - was shot to death by plainclothes police officers in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. The family came to make four demands of the police:

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1) Release the names of the officers involved
2) Make those officers' disciplinary records public
3) Release unedited video footage of the incidence
4) Explain the presence of the "SRG" at the scene

The SRG is a unit of un-uniformed police officers who are not assigned to a precinct. Though the SRG was created to "combat terrorism," often the division is a "placement of last resort" for officers with violent tendencies and disciplinary problems.

After the NYPD repeatedly failed to provide answers to simple questions about the investigation, the meeting closed, and activists in attendance descended on NYPD leadership to demand follow-through on their basic requests for transparency and accountability. You can see them here in this video.

Join us in highlighting the work of grassroots activists around the country by using the #ThisIsActivism to elevate stories of their work.