Stop-and-frisk reminds Brooklyn teen of ’63 March on Washington [VIDEO]

Don’t tell 18-year-old Kasiem Walters the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington is too far removed for him or other teens to identify with.

The Brooklyn teenager and recent high school graduate said he experiences daily reminders of what he thinks life was like for so many African-Americans in the 1960s.

“When I got stopped and frisked and my head was banged into a pole, that reminded me of the 1960s,” said Walters, whose appearance in an anti-stop-and-frisk PSA has attracted more than 60,000 views on YouTube. “When I got pushed in the subway by a cop because he thought I’d hopped [the turnstile without paying], that reminded me of the 1960s. When I was waiting for my friend at school and I got my bag emptied out [by a police officer] and I was discouraged to go to school, that reminded me of the 1960s.”

Walters’ descriptions of his experiences with the New York Police Department’s ‘stop and frisk’ policy sound as painful as they do poetic. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg maintains the policing method has kept New York City “safe,” and is not synonymous with racial profiling.

Walters said he’s been stopped some seven times since he was 13. He told theGrio.com that generations before him were subjected to far worse, but that too many of his peers share his experience with police.  The 1963 March on Washington attracted some 250,000 protestors and participants — raising awareness of the poor economic plight of African-Americans and pushing for strong civil rights legislation. 

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“It’s not about having a direct connection, but knowing your history,” Walters said of that historic moment in American history.

“One way young people can feel a part is by engaging in politics now,” said Dorian Warren, an associate professor of political science and public affairs at Columbia University. “We have the Dream Defenders in the state of Florida, who were occupying the Governor’s Mansion, the State Capitol and fighting for racial justice in honor of Trayvon Martin…that’s the best way to honor the memory of the [March on Washington].”

Warren said the country has “gotten smarter,” and it’s not a coincidence that the 50th anniversary is taking  place while [Obama] is in the White House. But to feel connected, he says, young people can’t sit on the sidelines.

“Racism is more complex today,” Warren admits. “But we still have these instances of very significant and understandable racial injustices that happen every single day. And those are the ways in which we can start to engage people based on what they’ve been experiencing.”

Walters is certainly finding ways to engage. He formed his own music collective called Dehpeschi Musiq Entertainment and participates in the Adobe Youth Voices program in New York City.

Walters said it’s unfortunate his negative experiences remind him of past injustice, but that he draws strength from the examples of past civil rights leaders and marchers.

And that strength comes out in his music. He’s looking forward to releasing a black-history-themed mixtape in February, next year.

“We gon’ fight, that’s right,” Walters sings from a small studio operated by Urban Arts Partnership in Soho. “I always tell my friends, just in general, when you make music – ‘Is this what Martin would have loved?’ ‘Is this what Rosa would have loved?’ I feel like this brings us in some type of spiritual connection…from that era to now.”

Follow theGrio.com’s Todd Johnson on Twitter @rantoddj