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Police killing ignites youth leadership

By Jihad Hassan Muhammad -Contributing Writer- | Last updated: Sep 3, 2014 - 4:34:19 PM

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FERGUSON, Mo. (FinalCall.com) - “They were tear gassing women and children out here,” said Malik Rashan of the Occupy the Hood Movement. He was describing abusive police handling of people with a lawful right to protest in Ferguson, Mo., which was a hotbed of activity and anger since the killing of a Black teenager by a White police officer in early August.

People were tear gassed and agitated by cops in numerous ways throughout protests that followed the killing of Michael Brown, whose body lay in a street for almost four hours.

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Unidentified youth in Ferguson march to protest death of Mike Brown. Photos: Shey Butter Jones and Cartan X
Mr. Rashan, a hip-hop industry insider, works with Allhiphop.com and hosts Sway’s show on Shade45 satellite radio. He came into town to see how he could help the youth movement for justice for the young man some family and friends called “Mike Mike.” He was killed Aug. 9 by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. Police say the fatal encounter began with the officer confronting two young Black men walking in a narrow, winding street that cuts through Canfield-Green apartments.

Mr. Rashan saw youth as emerging leaders. They took care of women and children after canisters of tear gas were launched at a crowd of thousands and a barrage of wooden bullets riddled the protesters, he said. The mainstream media has often portrayed demonstrators as violent, seemingly blaming protesters for heavy handed police responses to ordinary people. “I don’t see what everybody else is seeing; I see a lot of young brothers and sisters putting away the petty little beefs because the cops are totally wrong,” said Mr. Rashan.

Many close to the movement see similar activism among youth.  Youth who were once part of St. Louis’ usual violent landscape have engaged in this movement for justice and social change. “Contrary to what the media is saying with all this propaganda, it’s been nothing but positivity,” said Orlando “Pretty Boy” Watson of St. Louis-based Pretty Boy Records. “I know young dudes right now that have beef, who come out here to protest every day, and instead of beefing they are laughing and talking and now joining forces to seek justice for Mike Brown.” He believes youth just need guidance from older men with broad life experiences.

James W. Muhammad, a longtime mentor who served at risk youth of St. Louis with the Dynasty Hip-Hop Mentoring Program, said, Youth “will listen, no matter what condition they are in, or what activities they engage in, drugs, gangs, etc, when you show them you care. We were blessed with the results to prove this as we worked with them.” He now lives in Dallas, Texas.

The protests have energized Black people in the St. Louis area with a spirit of unity, said many. That energy and unity has stalled neighborhood violence and 93 percent of all homicides in the Black community are committed by another Black person. Young people ages 15-28 make up a large percentage of those who are victimized and who perpetuate the crimes.

“It aint hardly no shooting in the hood right now, we aint on that, we on a higher cause right now,” said a young man who did not wish to be identified.

“I have witnessed the police start shooting tear gas and the rounds that they shoot hit babies, women, and children. Then we run up to the front line for the safety of our women and children. All of us were getting tear gassed,” said Ricky Muhammad, a member of the Fruit of Islam in the Nation of Islam from St. Louis. He served nightly as a buffer between protestors and police.

The Fruit of Islam, Malik Shabazz of Black Lawyers for Justice, members of the New Black Panther Party, Clergy United, the Peacekeepers, activist Anthony Shaheed and community leader Zaki Baruti also worked to keep unarmed people from going toe to toe with dangerous  militarized police officers. Police have showed little respect for people in protest demonstrations

Law enforcements abuse of authority has resulted in the crowd growing upset because their rights to protest are violated. “It’s like they saying we don’t have no rights, they stop us from protesting when they feel like,” a young woman said.

When asked about the future of the city, some youngsters reflected on the biggest problems, which include too few elders are hearing, respecting them and offering them opportunities for a better life. Mike Brown is a symbol of that, he was murdered before he could become an adult and have a better life, the youngsters said. The sentiment is “Mike Brown could be me” and is propelling youth into a new social awareness.

BGyrl, a St. Louis-based hip hop pioneer and activist, has engaged youth at protest sites every day since protests began. She is petitioning for more help to guide youth and keep the National Guard from slaughtering them. “They are our responsibility, we must help them find their way,” said the owner of HandsUpDontShoot.com.

(Richard B. Muhammad, Final Call editor, contributed to this report from Ferguson Mo.)

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