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From Rally to Power: The Civic Obligation of Young Black Leaders

By Tiffany Loftin

Who would have thought that in less than 15 days, I would have to coordinate and manage 1,000 young, Black student leaders from over 24 cities on 17 buses in the name of gun reform and safety?

The reality is, sometimes the work chooses you.

I started my new job one day before the mass school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. We’ve got over 650 active and registered NAACP chapters on high school and college campuses across the country. We are the only organization, period, that can reach that many Black, young, organized members.

Since February 14, 2018, the day of the Parkland shooting, I have followed these students who have built a national discussion on the safety of young people at school in less than a month. A movement that inspires, convicts and recruits people from across the country and now the world, to an issue that Black folks have been talking about for over a decade.

When gun violence happens in white communities, it’s always reported on as a mental issue or because they were racist. When gun violence happens in the Black community, it is because of poverty, underfunded schools, police brutality or gangs. This is necessary to understand because the solution we are fighting for can’t just be regulations against automatic military style weapons. It has to be a holistic solution to make all communities safe.

The March for Our Lives is only a march for OUR lives if people meet at the intersection of mass school shootings, community violence, poverty, the War on Drugs, police brutality and White supremacy. From Trayvon Martin to Stephon Clark, this is not the first time we’ve raised the issues of gun violence, but for many reasons, this moment is where we find ourselves with the most leverage of “people power.”

When the opportunity presented itself for us to be involved and bring our members, I spoke with my boss and told him I would only sign up to help build for the “March for Our Lives,” if we got to do two things:

  • First, I wanted to make sure that we weren’t just being used as representation at the march, but that we challenged the mainstream media, march organizers and organizational partners to think about the intersection of gun violence, when it comes to the Black community.
  • Second, it was important that this moment not turn into just another rally, but real opportunity for us to educate and engage future members about the organization. 

Because a rally won’t end gun violence, I want my peers and young adults to make the clear connection from this issue to who should be held accountable for systemic and legislative change at the ballot box. That way, we know we showed up in numbers not just for a great rally, but for the start of a great revolution.

It is my belief, that if all of the young folks from this march, the women’s march, the immigration movement and Black Lives Matter joined together for a strategic effort, we could change this country literally overnight.

We must use this as a moment to help young Black folks see that if we want real gun reform, if we want better public schools, if we want community policing then we MUST show up to the ballot box. This demonstration, for the NAACP Youth and College Division is not a free trip to a rally. It is the moment that we are using to build real power that will impact the political navigation of this country.

Black students have the solutions and the answers.

We’re going to stop asking to be included in national movements, and just take over.

I am grateful to all of the staff, the partners and our donors who have helped make this vision possible. We can only use this moment to create bigger and better local victories for our people.

Cheers to the strong and fearless students from every community, who have ever stood up to violence in their communities. This march is a celebration of your leadership, and a call to action for those looking to change the world.

Tiffany Dena Loftin is director of the NAACP Youth and College Division, which serves more than 700 youth councils, high school chapters and college chapters across the United States. You can follow Tiffany on Twitter.


Can Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. Really Change the Face of NASCAR?

By Ronda Racha Penrice, Urban News Service

Tiger Woods changed the face of golf. Venus and Serena Williams TRANSFORMED tennis. And now Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. MAY DO THE SAME FOR NASCAR. The 24-year-old race car driver’s Cup Series debut at the iconic Daytona 500 got the nation’s attention. As NASCAR’s first full-time Black driver in its elite series since Wendell Scott in 1971, all eyes were on Wallace. Thanks to his second-place finish, the highest-ever by both a Black driver and a rookie, those eyes didn’t waver. As Wallace traveled to Hampton, Georgia to race the Folds of Honor Quiktrip 500 February 25 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, fan attention stayed riveted on him. 

Even by NASCAR’s super media and fan-friendly standards, Wallace did a lot that Friday prior to the Quicktrip 500. On top of the requisite press conference, he squeezed multiple one-on-one interviews, mostly with local Atlanta TV media. Wallace knows that the heightened interest in him is a combination of his race and his Daytona 500 performance. Instead of downplaying the attention to his race, Wallace, whose father is white, has embraced it. 

“There is only 1 driver from an African-American background at the top level of our sport. I am the 1. You’re not gonna stop hearing about “the Black driver” for years. Embrace it, accept it and enjoy the journey,” he tweeted November 8, 2017. 

Embracing his race doesn’t mean dwelling on it though. “You can psych yourself up by reading all the history and whatnot and doing all of that but that just puts too much pressure on yourself,” he said during an interview at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. “So, I’ve learned to focus on just the driving aspect of it and let everything else settle in behind.”

Wallace, who was born in Mobile, Ala. and RAISED in Concord, N.C., began racing go karts at 9 YEARS OLD. By 16, he was competing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, the sport’s main developmental series for grooming its next generation, as part of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity initiative. His first race at the Greenville-Pickens Speedway, he won, becoming the youngest driver to ever win at the THAT track. After another win, he finished third overall in the series and received the Rookie of the Year award, a first for an African-American driver.

He won three more times in 2011. Driving for Joe Gibbs Racing TEAM in 2012, he held his own, staying near the top and even winning one race. He had five wins in two years. In 2014, he finished third overall while driving the truck series with Kyle Busch Motorsports. He followed that up by driving with Roush Fenway Racing in the Xfinity Series from 2015 to 2017. When Aric Almirola was injured last year, Wallace filled in by driving for the iconic Richard Petty Motorsports. His stellar performance prompted a welcome as their full-time driver of the legendary no. 43, now a Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, for the 2018 season.   

NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty, nicknamed “The King” for a career that includes seven NASCAR Championship and Daytona 500 wins each, plus over 700 Top 10 finishes in 1,184 starts, strongly believes Wallace is a future NASCAR star.  

APPROACHED DURING THE ROAR OF PRACTICE ROUNDS AT THE ATLANTA MOTOR SPEEDWAY February 23, the NASCAR LEGEND SAID HE SAW WALLACE AS part of the sport’s future. “NASCAR’s face, as far as driving, is changing,” Petty said. “It changes every 12 to 14 years; we’re right in the middle of that. That was one of the reasons I was looking for a younger driver. Of all the ones that we looked at, we thought Bubba was going to be as good or better than any of the rest of them, personality-wise, driver-wise, sponsor-wise, the whole deal.” 

Bill Lester, the historic black NASCAR driver who raced two Cup-level races in 2006 and garnered seven top-10 finishes in the truck series from 2000 to 2007, champions Wallace but warns that the lack of major sponsorship is a huge obstacle to WALLACE realizing his full potential.

“If they do not get more corporate support, they’re going to struggle,” Lester said of Wallace and his team via telephone. “I always had a good looking car but, when it came to everything that was necessary to [run] at the front, I didn’t have it and that was because I just didn’t have the resources that the top-running teams had and he is in the same position.” 

NASCAR sponsorship is a REVOLVING door so any race week, sponsors can step up. That has given Wallace an opportunity to attract nontraditional sponsorship like the black-owned, Columbus, Ohio-based moving company E.E. Ward. Brian Brooks, co-owner of the company founded by former Underground Railroad conductor John T. Ward in 1881 that also counts Richard Petty Motorsports as a client, shared that their support of Wallace in Atlanta, especially during Black History Month, was a very hopeful gesture.  

“I think it would be a disgrace if we have to wait another 50 years for someone to come after Bubba to be a driver of color in NASCAR,” Brooks said via phone. 

To be a strong contender, Lester insists that Wallace needs Fortune 500 support. “With him not having full sponsorship, which is about an $18 million to $20 million proposition per year these days, he’s at a deficit,” Lester said.

Like many in NASCAR, Derrell Edwards, a former college basketball player turned Austin Dillon pit crew member who is believed to be the first African-American over-the-wall crew member for a Daytona 500 winner, feels that Wallace’s success is a good look for NASCAR’s future. “I think a lot of the people are going to gravitate towards him …. and it’s going to be great for the culture,” he said.

“We’re lacking in that department when it comes to NASCAR,” Wallace said in conversation regarding the potential impact he and his team could have on increasing black representation in the sport. “For us to be able to go out and do what we do on the racetrack and try to be the best, I think it’s going to help that number grow.” 

Rev. Al Sharpton Says Police Shootings Are A National Problem

By Manny Otiko | California Black Media

Stephon Clark’s memorial service held Thursday was a chance for both national and local figures to share their opinions about the latest police shooting of an unarmed black man.

Hundreds gathered to mourn the life of Stephon Clark at BOSS Church in South Sacramento, CA. Clark was shot and killed by law enforcement officers that encountered him while responding to neighborhood complaints of car windows being broken on March 18. Clark was mistakenly believed to be in possession of a gun but was found only to be holding his cell phone.

Rev. Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network, spoke at the memorial. He slammed the media for the way they were trying to frame the story.

“This is not black versus white, this is right versus wrong,” he said.

Photo by Antonio R. Harvey: Matt Barns Former NBA player, friends and family take Stephon Clark to his final resting place.

He also took a swipe at White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders who described Clark’s shooting as “a local matter.”

“This is not a local issue, it’s a national problem,” he said.  “A problem this president wants to ignore.”

Matt Barnes, a former NBA player, spoke after the memorial service. Barnes also organized a rally in Clark’s name. He said the issue hit home with him because he was a parent.

“I’m a father of two young boys, and I fear for their lives,” said Barnes. “Not only in the streets, but also behinds the hands of cops.”

Julie Debbs, a Sacramento resident, said Clark’s death could serve as a unifying force in the black community. She noted that several local gangs had attended the funeral peacefully.

“Everybody came together today. This is beautiful. Maybe this will bring us all together as one,” she said.