Meet Clifton Kinnie, the college activist pushing for black voices in March For Our Lives (WATCH)
"No one asked to be protestors, organizers or activists. We are literally fighting for our survival."
Clifton Kinnie said “enough is enough” at 17 years old. He organized in Ferguson after the death of Michael Brown to advocate against excessive use of force from police.
Now a college student at Howard University, the 21-year-old is getting ready to graduate, and return to his hometown of St. Louis to become a teacher.
theGrio caught up with Kinnie in Washington, D.C., where he’s ensuring black students aren’t erased from the narrative of change happening during March for Our Lives.
theGrio: Why was it important for you to be a part of this movement?
CK: We understand that black youth have been protesting for gun reform now for many years. I started organizing in Ferguson at the age of 17. We created a coalition because we understood that police and the way they’re utilizing their guns in our communities, killing unarmed civilians, that’s gun violence as well.
So it was important for black youth to be here at this march to voice our concerns, to show up and let the world know, you can’t ignore our struggle. You can’t ignore us.
TG: We see a lot of mainstream coverage for what happened in Parkland, but when it comes to black youth it’s “well gun violence is just what they deal with.” What are some of the struggles of building this intersectional gun violence reform movement?
CK: There’s the idea that we face racial indifference, right? This idea that more affluent and white communities don’t experience what we experience in our communities. Therefore it’s kinda difficult for us to organize and get together.
But I reached out to a few of the Parkland activists and they’re really receptive in wanting to engage in the struggle and wanting to engage in an intersectional movement. I talked to Lex, I talked to Kai, Nick… and they really want to hone in and push for the change we want.
No one is going to fight for this, but us. No one asked to be protestors, organizers or activists. We are literally fighting for our survival.
TG: For people who say, look there’s nothing you can do. Changing gun laws isn’t going to stop violence and murders from happening… How do you respond to that?
CK: We can’t live in a world where we’re ignoring other people’s oppressions.
We’re all in this together. We all have to survive this world. Therefore we all have to work together to figure out a world we’d like to live in, envision and implement it.
And we’re gonna do it. My generation is.
TG: What should adults be doing to back up the generation leading the change?
CK: Listen. The best thing adults can do right now is just listen to young people.
In Ferguson when I started organizing, I was ignored. I was called a radical. Malcolm X. A divider– and all I wanted this country to do was live up to it’s foundational creed.
After Ferguson I realized we don’t live in a post-racial world, nor do we live in a world without violence.
So it’s important for the post-millennial generation to really rise up right now.
And reimagine society in a way that will keep us all safe.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of theGrio’s interview with Clifton Kinnie and subscribe to our YouTube channel.