Since August, the people of Ferguson, Missouri, have been standing up to the deeply racist system that allowed a police officer to kill 18-year-old Michael Brown in broad daylight and escape any punishment. And while people from all walks of life have participated in the protests, young people have been at the forefront of this liberation movement. Earlier this month, Rolling Stone caught up with four of those young leaders – Ashley Yates, co-creator of Millennial Activists United; T-Dubb-O and Tef Poe, both local hip-hop artists; and Tory Russell, cofounder of Hands Up United with Tef Poe – as they visited New York and shared their urgent message to the world. Watch what happened in our exclusive day-in-the-life video, below.
These are deeply eloquent voices that have gone unheard for far too long. The activists shared intense stories from the frontlines of the protests in Ferguson: "St. Louis literally looks like Iraq right now," says T-Dubb-O. "You see a tank on almost every corner. National Guard, snipers on roofs. That's what our home looks like."
They also make the important point that Michael Brown's needless death was part of a larger pattern of systemic violence. "They're constantly killing us," says T-Dubb-O. "That wasn't the first time Ferguson killed an unarmed man…2013, downtown St. Louis, Cary Ball, shot 21 times with his hands up. Wasn't no media there. I didn't see nobody running to get no story."
Adds Yates, "Real change will look like: Every 28 hours, a black person's not getting killed by the people that are supposed to protect and serve, or by vigilantes, and getting away with it."
T-Dubb-O adds a sharp note of criticism about the lack of national media coverage of suffering in the black community. "They're quick to come when we dead already," he says. "What about when I got to sell crack to feed my son? Can I get some help then? They pick comfortable fights to me. I ain't been comfortable my whole life. I decided that day, August 9th, that I was going to do something. I would rather die before I continue to live the way I'm living."