Center for Media Justice home of the Media Action Grassroots Network

Turn Up: 21st-Century Black Millennials Are Bringing Direct Action Back

The following post was written by Executive Director Malkia Cyril, cross-posted from The Huffington Post.

At 7:30am on a rainy Monday morning, a multi-racial team of activists led by Black millennial direct action groups Blackout Collective, #BlackBrunch and Black Lives Matter accomplished what had never been done before. They shut down police headquarters in downtown Oakland, California, for four hours and twenty-eight minutes. Four hours, they said, to represent the length of time the dead body of unarmed Black teenager Michael Brown lay in the street after he was shot by a white police officer, Darren Wilson; 28 minutes to signify the fact that a Black man, woman or child is killed by police or vigilantes every 28 hours, according to 2012 study called “Operation Ghetto Storm” conducted by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement.

Black… and Breathing

“We fight for justice for every single Black life that has passed at the hands of police,” said organizer Deirdre Smith. “But we must also stand up and shut down the Oakland Police Department for the Black and breathing who are at risk of the same fate.”

Dressed dramatically in all black, members of the Collective marched in lockstep announcing themselves as “Black … and breathing,” before raising one fist in salute to lives lost. That, and other images, flooded social media, commanding thousands of re-tweets and shares under the hashtags #BlackLivesMatter, #BlackAndBreathing and #ShutDownOPD.

Black organizers were joined by a team of Asian leaders using the Twitter hashtag #Asians4BlackLives and white allies from the Bay Area Solidarity Action Team using the hashtag #SilenceIsViolence. Together, this multi-racial and multi-generational team chained themselves to police department doors, while simultaneously blocking two intersections. For nearly five hours they stopped traffic on the street leading to the police department and prevented access to the building.


About the Author

Malkia A. Cyril is co-founder and Executive Director of the Center for Media Justice (CMJ). For more than 20 years, Malkia has organized social justice coalitions, resources, and advocacy for media rights, access, and representation across the United States. You can follow Malkia on Twitter @CultureJedi


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