The last six months of this year have been some of the most trying and difficult times this country has faced in a generation. The senseless killings of unarmed black men across the country have tested the consciousness of a nation, and given rise to dozens of new voices, all leaders in their own respect. Like many, I have welcomed the introduction of new, energetic, and eager black voices to supplement and sometimes, resist antiquated rhetoric of older leaders. However, as social media has given rise to an unparalleled movement, many of these new leaders have become wrapped in a egotistical blanket of "retweets," "likes," and "mentions." This creation of "virtual leaders," while in many cases, incredible for the movement of a more just America, has also done damage to the credibility of this movement as many of these virtual leaders are more concerned with yielding to positions that will increase their online footprint and clout rather than taking the important position of leading from behind.
Last May, I became the youngest city council candidate in Newark history at age 21. We ultimately lost our race, but we ran an amazing campaign, full of youthful energy and resolve.
Consequentially, many have asked me why I have not been more engaged in the #blacklivesmatters movement. The truth is, I am; I am at as many marches as the next person and I work behind the scenes literally everyday to reform police practices throughout urban New Jersey. The reality though is that, I am not interested in using the unfortunate deaths of my black and brown sisters and brothers as a platform to advance myself or my "brand," rather I am much more interested in how I can lead from behind, how I can support the masses in their call for freedom and justice, and how I can keep our movement one of many voices and not a select few, or dozens.
With all that said, I want folks to know that I appreciate millennials of color stepping up in incredible and unprecedented ways to advance our cause, however my concern is that in a world of social media and instant gratification, people can be clouded by their own rise to prominence and forget that the true power and change rests in the many and not the few. I encourage everyone to keep moving and keep pushing, but as one voice. We may never have another opportunity to change the social and political landscape of out country in the way we have the opportunity to now. Let's not throw it away with narcissism and selfishness.