Youth Movement. “Where do I start? How about undefinable frustration? It seems we can’t even catch our breath from our first tragedy before being hit by another gut-punch from a second, third, and fourth. The names Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Tamir Rice — and countless more. Too many more. That is the brutal truth – as brutal as the tactics employed with stunning regularity by some who are sworn to protect us,” said Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN) in Ferguson today.
“It’s the main goal of members to listen to activists and leaders on the ground in Ferguson,” said a person on the trip who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Who better to a listen to the young activists than members who are not far from the age of the activists?
At Wellspring United Methodist Church in Ferguson today, Carson, who at 40 is the second youngest member of the Congressional Black Caucus, took center stage. Carson delivered the keynote speech at the gathering.
“The CBC is not afraid to speak truth to power,” Carson told the crowd at Wellsping United Methodist Church on Florissant Road.
“It won’t be easy, and it will take a lot more than any speech but I come today with the Congressional Black Caucus because you ignited a flame. You showed the world the cancer in Ferguson that continues to plague so many communities across our country,” Carson said.
Three members of the Black Caucus spoke in Ferguson today at a service highlighting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a day before the MLK Holiday: Rep. Carson, Chairman G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), and Rep. Lacy Clay (D-MO) who represents Ferguson. Ten members were present of the service in all. At the same time the service was going on, a group of Ferguson activists were appearing at restaurants for their BlackBrunchSTL action. Two of the activists had dinner with the members last night.
“I talked to some brilliant young activists last night. They expressed their frustration with the challenges with the older generation. It’s a universal gripe that everyone has when we’re younger. We say: The old people should step aside and let us take over. But where are you taking us? What is the action plan? Where are we going? Yes we see your brilliance but do you have the heart of a surgeon,” Carson told the packed church.
“To the old I’d say: We need your leadership ability and mentoring. But are you going to hold the hurt of the past against the next generation,” Carson added.
Carson also focused on the key issue of getting out the vote in a town where voting participation is down. “There are many ways that we can serve and contribute to society. But in Ferguson I humbly submit to you that there is one act that stands out clearly at this time and that is us leveraging out voting block and exercising our right to vote,” he said.
The Black Caucus often centers around their older members. Rep. John Conyers is now the Dean of the House. He will turn 86 in May. Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) will turn 85 on June 11. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), who is a member of the House leadership, is 74. The Black Caucus has 12 members over the age of 69.
With all the talk in he wake of Ferguson of “old leadership vs. new young activism,” Carson may have scored a break through in that worn out meme. Photos from a dinner meeting last night show the Congressman with young activists Johnetta Elzie and Deray McKesson. Both Elzie and McKesson have been active and on the scene in Ferguson since last August after unarmed teenager Michael Brown was shot eight times by former Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson.
“We are here to support and encourage you to continue by engaging in the political process. You have the power to determine the outcome of your mayor, school board, sheriff, and city council. The world is watching Ferguson — and Ferguson will always have the full force and power of the CBC, the conscious of the U.S. Congress as allies,” Carson said today.
The CBC now has five members who were born in the 1970s. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), 44, Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX), 43, Rep Cedric Richmond (D-LA), 41, and Rep. Mia Love (R-UT) who is 39. Another African American member of Congress, freshman Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) is the youngest Black member of Congress at 37.
Present at today’s service in Ferguson were Reps. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Karen Bass (D-CA), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Lacy Clay (D-MO) and Don Payne (D-NJ).