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Originally published on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, 2015 at 8:00 AM

Seattle Youth Lead the Movement

Listening to stories about the recent Black Lives Matter protests, I heard how a group of youth saw a young person get violently arrested by police right before their eyes. It impacted them, but when I asked if it would deter them from going to more protests, they insisted that they were more determined than ever to fight “for that to never happen again.”

Often excluded from decision-making spaces, and devalued and discounted by mainstream culture, youth in Seattle are still the most vocal, militant, and visible group on the front lines of political actions. They are the ones speaking out against structural racism and oppression.

A vibrant legacy of youth activism exists in Seattle. During the 1970s, student organizations such as the UW Black Student Union and the Seattle Liberation Front protested the Vietnam War, the corporate greed and environmental destruction by Weyerhaeuser and the University of Washington’s relationship with Brigham Young University because of its ties to white supremacy.

Understanding the harm of rampant unchecked capitalism, young people participated in great numbers during the 1999 WTO Convention protests and the Occupy movement’s protests and encampments in 2011.

Today’s youth are no exception. In 2014, youth organizations led ongoing protests against King County’s new juvenile detention center, criticizing the prison system for targeting youth of color.  On May 1st, the new Seattle Youth Coalition declared immigrants’ rights a priority and denounced US imperialism in other countries. Organizations like Youth Undoing Institutional Racism (YUIR) and Seattle Young People’s Project (SYPP) have trained other youth (and adults) about racism and how to fight it.

In response to the murder of Mike Brown, youth filled the streets in Seattle to protest in solidarity with Ferguson and Black Lives Matter. Garfield High School’s Black Student Union (BSU) organized a flash march and publicly demanded that the police change their ways.

“This is our time, as youth, to speak,” said BSU member Issa George (17), “We are still fighting oppression and we are still fighting for our lives.”

The youth we have today are present, brave, sharp, and strong. They have the capability and will to foresee and create a future based on racial justice.