Bay Area teenagers are taking the reins in the midst of recent rebellions

Shayla Avery has her bullhorn ready as she leads a march to defund Berkeley PD.

by JR Valrey, Black New World Media

“We are marching in solidarity and trying to make change. My first march was on the school system. We were protesting Berkeley High school, because we don’t have enough resources for Black students,” said Shayla 

Avery, a 16-year-old Berkeley High senior due to graduate this upcoming school year. 

“They don’t have enough Black teachers. And we have an African American department that is barely being funded. That was my first march. The second march was to the north side of Berkeley to talk about redlining and the long history of gentrification that has been happening. 

“And this one is to defund Berkeley Police Department, because Berkeley City Councilwoman Cheryl Devila proposed a 50 percent budget cut to Berkeley Police Department’s budget and we are trying to push that,” explained Shayla Avery, who did this interview moments before the Berkeley High youth led march started. “That is happening tomorrow. This rally is happening the day before to push that.”

Many Bay Area activist organizations are limited to helping people within the city in which they received a grant to fund a particular program. These youth do not seem to be limited by those movement-killing 501(c)(3) grant regulations. 

“We are crossing over from Oakland to Berkeley to unite the cities, because this is not just one person’s fight. We are fighting this together. So first we’re doing Berkeley and we are coming to Oakland next,” declared Shayla Avery. 

“We are tired. Enough is enough. . . I will keep fighting. I won’t stop.”

“So me and my friends, we made an organization, it’s called Youth Protect the Bay; you could find us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and all of that. It’s predominantly a majority of Black female youth from Oakland and Berkeley running it – three from Oakland and three from Berkeley. That is why we are uniting the towns. We are going to be giving food to the homeless. We are trying to take over and protect the Bay,” said Shayla.

After being an organizer and an activist reporter for decades in the hometown of the Black Panther Party, I finally feel like the Bay Area’s political millennial youth have finally come to power. The burning spear of the movement has successfully been passed on to the next generation of warriors. 

“We are tired. Enough is enough. That saying is really powerful. We hope that our generation ends this. I hope that my generation ends this. We don’t want to keep fighting. We want to live all equally. We are changing this. We don’t want this to keep happening. This has been going on for way too long, and we’re stopping it. I will stop it. I will keep fighting. I won’t stop,” she said, with conviction in her eyes and heart. 

A new crop of activists has arisen in the Bay Area after the police executions of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville nationally and Steven Taylor in San Leandro and Erik Salgado in Oakland, locally, just to name a few. Oakland and Berkeley are teaming with politically educated youth activists who are on the front lines against police executions, police terror, lack of resources and schools and the homelessness crisis. I wanted to give our readers a little insight of what the next generation of millennial Bay Area leaders are talking about. 

“I was feeling pain, sorrow and anger, and I had to channel it in some way. So I put out a flyer. On June 1, I told my friends that we had to do something, as a result of what happened to George Floyd and everyone else,” said Howard University freshman Akil Riley, 19, a political science major from Oakland. 

That call to action resulted in the first youth march in Oakland to protest the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and over 15,000 people attended according to mainstream media reports. The police also attacked the protesting youth with tear gas that day. 

“Basically, I have been politically involved since I was little. I’ve been having those talks with my dad, uncle and grandfather. I grew up in Oakland and I see what’s going on,” explained Akil Riley, who comes from an activist family. His father Manuel and uncle Raymond “Boots” Riley were political organizers with the radical Oakland-based Black revolutionary organization, The Young Comrades, in the mid ‘90s. 

Uncle Boots is also the front man for the legendary Hip Hop group, or band, the Coup and recently wrote the classic political comedy film, “Sorry to Bother You.” Akil’s grandfather Walter Riley, is a long time activist attorney who is currently involved in suing the Oakland Police Department in numerous cases. “Most recently,” says Akil, “I got involved in high school.” 

Although millennials have been written off as being mostly apathetic, particularly in the nation’s hotbed of political activity, the Bay, the rebellions surrounding Breonna Taylor and George Floyd lit a match, and as Frantz Fanon described, the youth heard their generation’s calling.

“The ideology has always been there, but there are spikes like there was with the Civil Rights Movement. This is also one of them,” said Akil as he described this recent uptick in political activity among the Bay’s teenagers. 

“Social media helped. Everybody had the feeling, but now it’s time. Young people are more radical than our parents – not all, but most of them. This movement of young people is smart and more radical. It is a progressive movement in my generation,” explained Akil. 

JR Valrey, journalist, author, filmmaker and founder of the Black New World Journalists Society, can be reached at blockreportradio@gmail.com or on Facebook. Visit www.youtube.com/blockreporttv.