Seattle youth on the rise for Black Lives Matter

University of Washington’s Black Student Union members at the Garfield High School Gym on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. (Photo courtesy the University of Washington Black Student Union)

At Garfield High School, it was student Jelani Howard who led the football team in kneeling during the national anthem. At Rainier Beach High School, student Elijah Lewis is part of a new local Youth Coalition for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to “unite anti-racist groups across Seattle to demand a seat at the table.”

They are among the local youth who are taking a lead in movements supporting Black rights, such as Black Lives Matter.

Lewis, who often communicates on Facebook, said if every black person stopped and decided to stand against the government, there would be change.

“I’m a young activist that is actively fighting for my community, by speaking out and informing others to become young leaders,” he said in a recent post. “My plan is to reverse some of the negative effects of gentrification, and speak for those who are silent. The time is now to stand on what you believe in.”

Some of those young people in Seattle, including Lewis, gathered last month at the Martin Luther King Day parade. University of Washington senior, Martha Girma, attended the march and said that it’s important for young people to be involved in the movement because they need an activist mindset starting at a young age.

Many influential Black leaders have spoken at Garfield High School, which is the high school where I graduated. When I was a student there, I felt a strong sense of activism.

In 2006, Garfield was the venue that hosted then-U.S Sen. Barack Obama at a fundraiser for Sen. Maria Cantwell. Less than a year later, Obama announced he would run for President of the United States.

Stokely Carmichael spoke at Garfield in 1967 about Vietnam War and racism.

“Black Power is the coming together of black people to fight for their liberation by any means necessary,” he told the crowd, who applauded.

Carmichael also took on those who accused the Black Power movement of violence, saying those critics had it backwards.

“They’ve been able to walk over us, bomb our churches, beat us up, shoot into our houses, lynch us, and do everything they wanted to do and we would just sit there and whisper about it behind closed doors,” he told the crowd at Garfield. “It’s a new day today! It’s a new day today!”

At last month’s MLK day march, it was activist and former Seattle mayoral candidate Nikkita Oliver who stirred up the crowd.

“If you take a knee today, I ask that when you stand, you truly stand for justice and put yourself on the line,” she said.