The Chicago-based community activist group, Black Youth Project 100, is currently working with two groups in Ferguson, Mo. advocating for change after the shooting death of Michael Brown — the Don’t Shoot Coalition and Hands Up United. If the grand jury decision comes in without an indictment for Officer Darren Wilson, they are demanding that elected officials in Illinois pressure Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri to appoint a special prosecutor for the case.
23-year-old Camesha Jones has been with Black Youth Project for the better part of this year. She joined BYP 100 because of her interest in civic engagement and advocating for black youth. Youth Radio’s Brandon McFarland spoke with Jones earlier this month about how Michael Brown’s shooting affected a generation.
Where were you when you heard about the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson?
I was at home when I found out. It was also around the time that BYP100 was planning an action that had to do with police violence. We had already started a campaign in March called “Decriminalize Black.” It talks about finding different strategies and solutions to solving the issues that are affecting black youth that are being violated by the police. So we had a meeting and checked in about how we felt and what we wanted to do moving forward.
And, how did you feel?
I thought about my little brother; he’s ten. I think about his life and his quality of life. I was disappointed because once again an unarmed teenager was harmed by the police. It just seemed like Trayvon Martin all over again.
There are so many cases of shooting deaths of young black men by police officers in America. Why do you think this sparked such an outcry from the black community young and old?
It seems like the reactions to Mike Brown for some people in America is that of a boiling point, and more people might be out protesting and showing solidarity [against injustice] than before.
Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin and Oscar Grant are just like what Emmitt Till was for my grandparents. I have the same reaction as my ancestors when they heard of an injustice, or violence, or trauma done to a member of the black community that had gone unchecked.
Do you think the grand jury will indict?
They’re sending thousands of officers [to Ferguson] in preparation for what the decision might be. It makes you feel like it’s going to be on the wrong side of justice.
What do think will happen if they don’t indict Officer Wilson?
I think that the protests will increase but there will be another opportunity for there to be coalition building for other grassroots organizations that are in the fight. It would be a moment for us to ban together and put pressure on the Department of Justice, the Missouri governor, and the Ferguson Police Department that we will not turn away. If it comes back that they’re not going to indict [Darren Wilson] the pressure will increase.
Who’s in charge of law enforcement’s response in Ferguson? Huffington Post Reporter, Matthew Sledge, asks Missouri Governor Nixon, “does the buck ultimately stop with you?”