Calling youth involvement critical for any meaningful social change, hip-hop artist Talib Kweli (pictured center) became the latest celebrity to join the Dream Defenders, a group of activists conducting sit-ins protesting the state’s policies that both target and criminalize Black and Brown youth with the infamous Stand Your Ground laws.
“History tells us nothing moves without young people being involved,” Kweli said at a crowded press conference late last week. “If the youth aren’t involved, I don’t want to be part of it.”
Surrounding Kweli were dozens of Dream Defenders, who wore black tee shirts with the words, “Can We Dream Together,” as Kweli explained why he supported the protest.
The Dream Defenders, comprised of youth and young adults, started camping out in front of Governor Rick Scott’s office on July 16th, three days after George Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
The group wants Scott to open a special session of the legislature designed to repeal the “Stand Your Ground” law and ban racial profiling.
While Scott met with the group in mid-July and initially refused to call for the special legislative session. earlier this month, the Dream Defenders experienced a huge win when Florida’s House of Representatives, Will Weatherford, announced that they would in fact review the controversial law due to the Dream Defenders’ vociferous protests.
Across Florida, representatives are receiving calls, letters, visits and emails from constituents with diverse opinions on ‘Stand Your Ground, Weatherford wrote in an op-ed from the Tampa Tribune. Passions are high, but every person has the right to express their views on this matter of great importance.
Our evaluation of its (the law’s) effectiveness should be guided by objective information, not by political expediency.
In their fourth week of occupation at the capitol, the Dream Defenders are continuing to garner the support of celebrities and public figures across the nation.
Even though Kweli says that he initially found sit-ins to be outdated, he says he was glad to see the students conduct the method of protest because they gave it a new, inclusive face.
“They are moving this protest from something specific to Black and Brown people to being something for humanity,” Kweli said.
Kweli added that while the “Stand Your Ground” law wasn’t used by the defense in the Martin case, it still casts a shadow of suspicion and potential violence over young Black and Brown people.
“Stand Your Ground laws still contribute to a culture of violence against young Black people,” Kweli said. “Stand Your Ground laws are a piece of puzzle that criminalizes young Black people and increases their chances for death.”
Watch news coverage of the Dream Defenders and Kweli here:
Over the past three weeks, Dream Defenders have been joined by entertainer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte and Rev. Jesse Jackson. Rappers Kanye West, Nas, Busta Rhymes and entertainment mogul Russell Simmons have also publicly expressed support through social media.