Roughly 10,000 people attended Rev. Al Sharpton’s “Justice for All March” on Dec. 13 in Washington, D.C. At a reimagined “Million Man March” held in New York on the same day, five times as many people joined in. While numbers don’t tell the whole story, the crowd at the NYC protest seemed decidedly younger.
“This is seen as the march for the older generation, for the old civil rights movement,” Dr. Jason Johnson, a political science professor, told me during the protest in D.C. “In New York, it’s the younger people’s movement…it’s the Dream Defenders, it’s the Ferguson Committee…it’s the millennials and the Generation Xers, who have said, ‘It’s time for us to be more aggressive.’”
When Rev. Al Sharpton took the stage in front of the capitol in D.C, I noticed a few young people in the crowd rolling their eyes. One of them was 20-something Gabriel Clarke.
“Al Sharpton, you’re great, but it’s not your time,” he said. “We need a new leader, we need new leaders. We need African-American women to step up.”
Clarke thinks old school civil rights leaders don’t get it.
“We need to stop this whole rhetoric about ‘it’s us,’” she said. “I think millennials, black and white, need to start having this conversation. We have to start rewriting the rules.”
However, Dr. Johnson thinks that older leaders like Sharpton bring something to the table that shouldn’t be ignored.
“Al Sharpton has access to the White House. You want someone who has access to the White House. You want someone who’s on speed dial with Barack Obama,” he said.
And many of the older protesters in the D.C crowd, like a 73-year-old woman named Glennis who came by bus from New York, also saw the value of having their younger peers play a more important role.
“One of the key things for me was the young people. I was so inspired…you don’t see that at these marches,” she told me. “The young people are active. It’s time for us old folks to pass the baton.”
Fusion correspondent Mariana Atencio spoke with Jorge Ramos about her experience in the D.C. march: