Since May 2020, youth organizers across the country have been mobilizing against police brutality and working for systemic change in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. Some of them had organized for social justice before, but many of them took to the streets for the first time and without an organized plan. Across Instagram posts, Zoom calls and iMessages, these youth organizers used social media to launch some of the largest Black Lives Matter protests in the country. In the seventh episode of Rolling Stone’s “Youth Organizers” video series, we take a look at Phoenix, Arizona and the youth-led work being done by Armonee Jackson, President of NAACP Arizona (Youth & College).
Rolling Stone: Is this the first time you’ve organized for social justice in your community?
Jackson: A lot of people ask me if the protests in Arizona are the first time I’ve organized. The first time I’ve ever organized something for social justice was in 8th grade when Trayvon Martin was murdered. We came together and decided on a day each week to go to school wearing hoodies, bringing along with us an iced tea and a bag of skittles. To ensure that the voice of Trayvon Martin was heard and that we could speak for him since he was unable to speak for himself.
What inspired you to continue that work in this movement?
Jackson: One emotion that stuck with me and that I brought to the protest was the fire in the pit of my stomach that came about when I watched a video for eight minutes and 46 seconds where an officer had his knee on a man’s neck to the point where he could not breathe and he was screaming for his mother. The youth in this generation now? We aren’t afraid to speak up and we aren’t afraid to do the things necessary to ensure we’re seeking change for those in our community.
Is there one protest you led this summer that stands out?
Jackson: One of the protests that I led was in Scottsdale, Arizona. And anyone who knows governor Doug Ducey, knows that Scottsdale is the gem of Arizona. For me, that sends a statement in and of itself. The planning process was tedious, but it was well worth it to ensure that the voices of George Floyd and Dion Johnson were heard. I wanted to make sure we made that impact in Scottsdale, which is an affluent city. To make sure that we were getting the change that we deserve as a Black community in the state of Arizona.
Do you have any advice for other young people leading this movement?
Jackson: My advice for young people in this movement right now is to keep fighting. I know it’s exhausting. It can be mentally, physically and emotionally draining. On days when I am drained, I think to myself that there is a bigger end goal, bigger picture and this is not about me. This is about my community. What inspires me to keep doing the work is the change that we’re already seeing.
Find more information on NAACP Arizona, Youth & College here.