Dream Defenders: superheroes for racial justice

by Granate Sosnoff on 7th August, 2013


Written by Granate Sosnoff. Reposted from Oakland Local










There is something very impressive happening right now in Florida. A human rights organization of “Black and Brown youth confronting inequality and the criminalization of our generation with nonviolent direct action”… are doing that this minute, in Florida’s state Capitol, camping out on hard marble floors since the Trayvon Martin verdict.

This is day 22 of the Dream Defenders takeover of Florida’s Capitol, and each day they are there, the more authentic, far-reaching and motivating their actions become. They are also making progress and winning victories with their direct action. On August 2, after much pressure and constant presence at the Capitol, Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford announced he will hold hearings on the state’s “stand your ground law” in the fall. Although short of what the Dream Defenders would like, which is a legislative hearing right now, Philip Agnew, executive director of the Dream Defenders stated that “It’s a critical first step, we’ve been here three weeks. We know Democracy takes time. Progress takes time.”
Seemingly out of nowhere, this politically savvy, committed group has emerged. Youth of color are standing tall and sitting-in, reminiscent of the sixties and impressive as hell.

Their well-thought-out campaign is one that demands justice by peaceful direct action, guided by strategy and intelligence. The Florida group, with chapters throughout the state, has captured the attention of the media, support of the NAACP and ColorOfChange.org and hearts of civil rights stalwarts like Jessie Jackson and Harry Belafonte. Jackson spent one night with the Dream Defenders and Belafonte met with them and endorsed their efforts with his elegant words of praise including:

“If they reject you, then the world will pay attention to what’s happening to you, and it is possible that Florida could become ungovernable,” Belafonte said. “By ungovernable, I don’t mean violent. But it could mean tens of thousand of people will join you. That’s not good for tourism.”

While police issued alerts around potential riots and violence after the Zimmerman verdict, Dream Defenders organized the opposite and called for an audience with Governor Rick Scott and a special session to repeal Florida’s stand your ground law. They were given a meeting with Gov. Scott but instead of a congressional session, he offered a “day of prayer” to deal with racial profiling.

In response, Dream Defenders organized their own hearings and are coming up with their own drafts of legislation and strategies to combat racial profiling — while still sitting in at the Capitol. Since July 16th, these young people have stayed committed and determined — a counter on their website marks each second of their protest. They have been 150+ strong with a wide range of visitors including an original Black Panther, university professors, and support people of all colors bringing food and and other items daily.

The not-guilty verdict in the Zimmerman trial is sparking a new phase of young, persistent and effective civil rights activism.

One can only hope that Dream Defenders spreads to California. We could use some superhero energy. Currently Florida is “ground zero” for Dream Defenders as they are organizing freedom rides across the country to address racial profiling, dismantle the “school to prison pipeline” for youth of color, and repeal other existing state stand your ground laws.

More info here: Dreamdefenders.org

Their petition here.

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