The New Kids On The Block

The protests chanting “Black Lives Matter” and “I Can’t Breathe” in the wake of the police killings in Missouri, New York, and elsewhere, will draw comparisons. They’re less pious than the Civil Rights Movement and they have the same problem as Occupy: a loose organization with no clear demands. But there are demands, and leaders, too, who are a big part of the story here. Young people of color, more women than men, and lots of them gay and lesbian, with a new common culture and , here and there, a critical analysis: of a society that they say has been resegregated, defunded, and overpoliced for too long.

A generation is on the march in the nation’s poorest places and on college campuses everywhere. Where do they want to take us? If you’ve led or joined the protests in Ferguson or anywhere in the past on the subject of police brutality, justice or inequality, please leave us a message by clicking here or on the microphone icon above. If you prefer, you can use your phone and call (617) 353-0692. 

We’d like to know why you’re protesting, what you’re hoping for, and the details of your experience. (Onlookers, feel free to leave us a message, too!) Is there something building here, something new and maybe vital? We’ll include the best ones on the air and on our site.

Guest List
Tef Poe
rapper, activist, and co-founder of Hands Up United.
Robin D. G. Kelley
distinguished professor of history, Gary B. Nash Endowed Chair in United States History, and author of Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original and Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination.
Glenn C. Loury

Merton P. Stoltz Professor of the Social Sciences and author of The Anatomy of Racial Inequality.

Bukky Gbadegesin
assistant professor of art history at St. Louis University and a coordinator at the Organization for Black Struggle.
Reading List
"Dear Mr. President: A Letter from Tef Poe"
Tef Poe, The Riverfront Times
One version of the new protest ethos, sent in an open letter to a black president preaching calm:

I have never looted or violently struck a police officer. We do lift our voices to yell, and yes, we often use profanity. We are more aggressive than protesters in the past, primarily because we are in a state of emotional disbelief. Mike Brown spent four and a half hours in the street, baking and bleeding on the hot summer pavement. We know you know this is wrong, so the disconnect between your words and your personal convictions has raised many questions in the black community.

"The Disruption This Time"
L. A. Kauffman, "The Baffler"
Kauffman, a veteran organizer, notices something different in the latest protests in New York:
I’ve been attending and observing protests for thirty years, and I’ve never seen anything quite like what I’ve experienced in New York City over the last week...

The protests have been mobile and deft, steered by tactically savvy organizers for maximal disruption and minimal arrests. Crowds blockade intersections until the police get antsy, then quickly march off to a new target; they swarm high-profile sites like Grand Central Station and Macy’s Herald Square, disrupt with loud chants, shift to a silent die-in, and then move on.

"Moving Pictures"
Jay Caspian Kang, The New York Times Magazine
An interesting meditation on how protests work in our social-media age:
Over the past few years, the distance between online protest and physical protest has shrunk considerably. There is a tendency to deride the hollowness of Twitter activism and ask why the activists have confined themselves to what seems like a meaningless and ultimately unactionable space. But the second part of that critique — where the critic tells the activist to go out and do something — has always been vague, an appeal to a form of protest that might no longer exist. In Ferguson and now in New York, the marchers and their personal, online broadcasts fed off one another. Carrying a sign and chanting helps, but it exists in only one sphere, unless you take a picture of it.

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