The Black Butterfly Effect
In Chaos Theory, the butterfly effect is a term that states that a small change at one place can make a significant difference in another place at some later time. The example frequently cited is that of a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world and ultimately causing a hurricane in another part of the world.
On February 26th, 2012, Florida teenager Trayvon Martin was shot and killed on his way back from a convenience store by a neighborhood watch volunteer. It was almost a month before his death gained the attention of mainstream media. There is the very real possibility that, if not for social media, Trayvon's murder would likely have gone unnoticed.
On July 14th, 2013, the man accused of murdering Trayvon was acquitted. Nationwide, the Black community was outraged. Out of that outrage was born the Dream Defenders, an organization created with the aim of creating awareness and advocating for the repeal of some of the policies that allowed Trayvon's killer to walk free. They initially focused on repealing "Stand Your Ground", a previously obscure law in Florida and 30 other states that allowed individuals to "shoot first then claim self defense later."
In the immediate aftermath of Trayvon's killer's acquittal, Dream Defenders staged a month long sit-in of Florida Gov. Rick Scott's office, demanding that he call a special legislative session to repeal "Stand Your Ground." Though their demands bore no immediate fruit at the time, their efforts brought their movement national recognition.
Fast forward to August of 2014. First, on the 5th of the month, John Crawford, a young Black man holding a toy gun he was planning to purchase, was shot dead in a Wal-Mart by Beaverton, Ohio police officers. Less than a week later, on the 9th of the month, 18 year old Micheal Brown of Ferguson Missouri was shot and killed by a white cop. Though multiple witnesses attested that Mike Brown had his hands up in the air and was in the process of surrendering when he was shot multiple times, the officer who shot him has yet to even be indicted by a grand jury. The ensuing rage, the result of years of systematic oppression and abuse of Ferguson's Black residents at the hands of its largely white police force, have made the city a focal point in the quest to achieve justice from an unjust system.
Out of these tragedies have spawned Operation Ferguson, the Ohio Student Association and the BlackOut Coalition; movements formed in response to the pattern of law enforcement targeting young Black men without being held accountable and the underlying conditions that allow these transgressions to occur.
While it is still too early to tell what lasting effects, if any, these movements will have, the fact is that they have already begun to engage the activism of an entire generation of young people who may not have otherwise been engaged. This past weekend, October 10 through 13, local organizers in conjunction with some of the aforementioned organizations staged a weekend long protest, nearly two months to the day since Mike Brown was gunned down. Rather than going away, the movement for justice appears to be gathering steam. Ferguson's activists have garnered shows of support from Palestinians and Hong Kong's Umbrella Revolution protestors.
Brave young men and women are standing toe-to-toe to the threat of overwhelming force and raising their voices against the status quo of law enforcement abuse without accountability. The movement is genuine and authentic. It is powerful. And it is led by our young people.
On February 26th, 2012, a butterfly flapped its wings, and over two years later, there is a rapidly developing hurricane of politically engaged young people seeking to address not only the symptom of police brutality, but also its underlying causes of systematic racism and economic inequity.
We would be wise to remember the words of Huey Newton:
"The revolution has always been in the hands of the young. The young always inherit the revolution."
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