Barack Obama, our 44th president, recently participated in a live Zoom conference alongside activists, councilmen, and fellow politicians to discuss police reform and the wrongful death of George Floyd.
President Obama opened his talk saying that the current protests and changes are “most profound” as anything he’s seen in his lifetime. He invoked the names of Martin Luther King Jr., Caesar Chavez, and Malcolm X as well as many other movements that started in every facet by young people. He remarked on how inspiring today’s young people have been to him saying, “…part of what made me so proud is that so many young people have galvanized and activated and motivated and mobilized because historically, so much of the progress we’ve made in our society has been because of young people.”
He took a moment during his speech to specifically address young people of color, “[They have] witnessed too much violence and too much death and too often that violence comes from folks who were supposed to be serving and protecting you. I want you to know that you matter. That your lives matter. That your dreams matter.”
He goes on to talk about the importance of not only voting on the presidential level but at a local level as well. “As activist and everyday citizens raise their voices, we need to be clear about where change is going to happen and how we can bring about that change. It is mayors, and county executives who appoint most police chiefs and negotiate collective bargaining agreements with police units, and that determines police practices in local communities.” Obama continued, “It’s district attorneys and state attorneys that decide typically whether or not to investigate and ultimately charge those involved in police misconduct. And those are all elected positions.”
Near the end of Obama’s speech the floor was opened to Campaign Zero co-founder, Brittney Packnett Cunningham, who introduced the panel members Eric Holder, Former Attorney General, Philipe Cunningham, a Minnesota councilman, and Rashad Robinson, the Color of Change founder. Packnett Cunningham as well as select members of the Minnesota community posed questions and voiced their concerns for police reform, brutality, and the many victims that are being grieved and remembered by protesters and activists alike.
President Obama closed the with a direct call to the young people who have recently taken to the streets: “Keep working. And stay hopeful.” He added, “This is a moment, and we have had moments like this before where people are paying attention. And that doesn’t mean that everything will get solved, so don’t get disheartened, because this is a marathon, not a sprint. But the fact that people are paying attention provides an opportunity to educate, activate, mobilize and act. And I hope we are able to seize this moment.”
You can find the full video here:
By Patience Hurston
Twitter & Instagram: @itsyaafavvv
By Amaris Edwards, Freshman, Columbia College Chicago