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Carlos Chaverst: Activists are not made, they are born

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Carlos Chaverst (Ariel Worthy, The Birmingham Times)

By Ariel Worthy

The Birmingham Times

Carlos Chaverst (Ariel Worthy, The Birmingham Times)
Carlos Chaverst (Ariel Worthy, The Birmingham Times)

If you ask Carlos Chaverst, activists are not made, they are born.

Chaverst, 23, said he sees himself as an activist because of his passion for change and his courage to speak out against what he believes to be wrong.

“I can’t just sit and let something happen,” Chaverst said. “I won’t just sit and let my people be led the wrong way by anyone and I won’t just let anyone tell me anything to satisfy me.”

Chaverst works with National Action Network (NAN), a civil rights organization with chapters throughout the country, founded by Rev. Al Sharpton in 1991. One thing he likes about NAN is the fact that it allows young people to lead causes that impact them, Chaverst said.

“It’s all based on the direct needs of those states” and cities where they are located, he said. “In Birmingham, we work on improving our education system and police conduct.”

Chaverst, who grew up in the Pratt City-Ensley area, has been part of countless protests and panel discussions on race and issues surrounding the city of Birmingham.

He was also recently invited to the University of Alabama where a group of student protesters asked him to train them on how to properly conduct sit-ins during games, and how to get others to join in.

“I would love to center my career around training other activists,” he said. “When I was younger I wanted to be President of the United States, but now I see there is so much work I can do here in my own community.”

People who believe protests do not work, have never been part of a protest, he said.

“There’s more to a protest than people marching,” he said.

Part of protesting requires three things, according to Chaverst: Protest, policy and polls.

“You protest first, then we work to support those elected officials with our best interest at heart and we present our policies that impact us,” Chaverst said. “Then we go to the polls and elect the people who really have our best interest at heart.”

Protests are also the start of a movement, he said.

One of his immediate causes is his opposition to a national park designation for sites in downtown Birmingham.

“Before we can bring anyone else in to look at our city we have to take care of our city first,” he said.  “The area they are looking to make a historic site, if you go a mile or two down the road in any direction from that area, you will find some of the most deplorable and dilapidated areas in our city. I don’t want people to see the site, get lost and go down the road and see abandoned homes, and overgrown lots. We have to take care of our own city before trying to bring people from all over the nation in.”

Chaverst’s protests have led to results in some cases. He said his role in the resignation of Judge Mark Fuller was rewarding. Fuller is the Alabama judge who presided over the case against former Alabama governor Don Siegelman. Fuller was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor battery after a domestic violence incident with his wife, Kelli Fuller.

“Myself, members of NAN, and a few other organizations went to Atlanta and protested and held conferences and called for his immediate removal,” Chaverst said. “Seeing a case like that to the end was really big.”

In Oct. 2014 Rep. Terri Sewell threatened to begin impeachment proceedings if Fuller did not resign. The following May, Fuller resigned.

With Donald Trump elected president last week Chaverst expects to be busy.

During Saturday’s rally against Trump at Kelly Ingram Park, Chaverst had everyone in the crowd text a number to receive updates and volunteer information about clean ups, and other things going on.

“For people who say that protests are ineffective, come out to one and see,” he said.