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Passing the torch – the new faces of Birmingham’s activism

Carlos Chaverst (Ariel Worthy, The Birmingham Times)

By Monique Jones

The Birmingham Times

Carlos Chaverst (Ariel Worthy, The Birmingham Times)
Carlos Chaverst of Birmingham’s National Action Network chapter is one of several activists in Birmingham.  (Ariel Worthy, The Birmingham Times)

Who are some of the young people who are not only at the forefront of recent protests and rallies across Birmingham but also advocates on behalf of change and equality?

They have included Carlos Chaverst, a local representative for the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network; Cara McClure, a founder of the Black Lives Matter Birmingham chapter; Shanté Wolfe-Sisson, with the Southern Poverty Law Center; and Frank Matthews, founder of the Outcast Voters League.

Others have included activists Mecutio Southall, Martez Files, and Julia Suarez; Avee-Ashanti Shabazz of the Revitalize Birmingham Group; Le’Darius Hilliard, president of the Jefferson County Millennial Democrats; and Daroneshia Duncan, with Transgender Advocates Knowledgeable and Empowering (TAKE).

They may not be known as foot soldiers, but they are definitely keepers of the flame.

For Chaverst, the history of protest is close to home: “For a little more than half a century, Birmingham has been known for its civil rights history and its protests and demonstrations, even in the 1960s, when my grandmother was out here as part of the children’s march and had [fire hoses] drawn on [her]. We saw that protests had a huge part in making change in Birmingham. Without the protests, we wouldn’t have seen the civil rights that people have today.”

“… In a sense, the torch was not being passed,” he said. “But [the] foot soldiers are now able to see what young people are able to do and how we’re able to step up in our own way and take control. They’re more willing to pass the torch along, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Wolfe-Sisson said, “I think everything we’ve learned from the past is helping us today,” adding that today’s activists must keep learning from those who came before: “I think it is important that we start having conversations with our foot soldiers again about their methods of communication. We need to be prepared for the future and what protests will look like in our cities across America.”

Building partnerships with those who came before and with each other are important in moving Birmingham and the nation forward, McClure said. “Birmingham can and is playing a role by building strategic coalitions, like the Black Lives Matter Birmingham chapter is intentionally doing,” she said. “Thinking about how we make these coalitions mindful, intentional, and strategic is central. This is our year of . . . solidarity and inclusivity. We are bringing groups together, and joining others in this fight because it’s going to take all of us working together: black, white, Latino, Christian, Muslim—people of all colors and all faiths.”