Al Sharpton doesn’t think that young people have a movement. He said as much in a recent Washington Post profile.
“The issue with my generation is we’re more about the Occupy organizing model,” she told Sharpton now. “You know, everyone can be a leader, that kind of thing.”
“I hear them saying that,” Sharpton said. ” ‘We don’t want Al Sharpton taking over our movement.’ But my question is: What movement? Y’all ain’t got nothing to take over.”
“They want everything to rise from the ground up,” Hector said.
“Fine, okay, but then tell me your strategy,” Sharpton said. “You burned the building down. Great. Now what?”
He also couldn’t identify any up-and-coming leadership in Chicago, despite months of youth activism in the city:
Is there anyone else who can do all of this? Anyone other than me? Seriously, I’m talking about anyone else?”
This is what Sharpton was asking the next day, back in the hotel conference room, meeting again with the 25 community leaders from his National Action Network. The issue at hand was one Sharpton thought about often: Who, if anyone, was in place to become the next Al Sharpton? He wanted to invite some younger national leaders to join his vigil with the Garners on King Day, but he didn’t know whom to invite. “What ever happened to Ben Jealous?” Sharpton asked, referencing the former leader of the NAACP. “How about talented leadership in Chicago? Anyone good coming up behind Jesse in Chicago?”
And this observation on what really matters at a march:
“These young leaders want to get on stage and be seen?” he said. “Fine. Go up there. Be seen. Now what?”
“That’s right, Rev.”
“How come Sharpton’s leading the march? ’Cause I organized the march. I brought the crowd. I got the permit. Those Porta-Potties cost us $20,000. You want to run the march? Fine. Get your own damn Porta-Potties.”
“You got yourself a group name? You got a nice hashtag? Great. But you want to know why all these families call us for help when their son or their daddy gets shot? ’Cause we got a phone number. We exist. They come see me!”
To say that Sharpton’s statements are condescending would be a vast understatement. Young activists took to Twitter to air their grievances with Sharpton’s views.
“Freedom ain’t free, pay ME.” #AlSharptonbylines
— BrownBlaze (@brownblaze) February 8, 2015
— ShordeeDooWhop (@Nettaaaaaaaa) February 8, 2015
“If I didn’t exist, they’d have to invent me.” #SharptonSays
— deray mckesson (@deray) February 8, 2015
Photo: Al Sharpton/Facebook