During a special ESSENCE Debates at our 2015 ESSENCE Festival, Rev. Al Sharpton and Devon Franklin compare—and contrast—the racial climate, now and then.[MUSIC] Hi, I'm Lauren Williams, features editor at Essence magazine, and you're watching Essence Debates Live. I'm joined today by Reverend Al Sharpton and DeVon Franklin, and we'll be talking today about the Black Lives Matter Movement. So I just wanna jump in and ask your opinion. Do you think the Black Lives Matter Movement is the civil rights movement of our time? I think that the Black Lives Matter movement is a name of a continuum movement. And any time you have movements, there are always slogans that kinda embody that movement. We shall overcome, was one Era, and under that, everybody functioned from Dr. King to the NAACP. [UNKNOWN] was I am somebody, and everybody functioned under that, from Jesse Jackson all the way to [UNKNOWN]. No justice, no peace was the era that I emerged in, so I think it is the name Or a slogan of a thing that has encompassed everybody from the die in movements to the NAACP, to what we do at National Action Network. And I think that it is a good thing because it embodies and capsulizes everything from Trayvon to Charleston. Right, right. What do you think has been most successful about this movement. What do you think that the Black Lives Matter iteration of what's been going on for so long, has been able to achieve? I think that when you look at it, it's the consistent publicity. I think it is the notoriety around what's going on. And I think because there have been so many issues lately that keep stoking the fire Where this slogan, this idea that black lives do matter, it keeps coming up and it won't go away. So I think they've been very successful in keeping their message on the front of the headlines, the front of what's going on. And I think that's the way, or at least one of the ways, that we're gonna ultimately see some change. Because These issues, it's really about the PR around them. Right? And how we continue to [UNKNOWN] have the messaging so that people know this is not going away. Right? And I agree with what Reverend Sharpton has said, that this struggle for us as a people in this country to be treated equally with equal rights and equal equality That's ongoing. That's been going on since slavery days, right? Right, right. So I think they've been successful in repackaging the message so that this generation gets it and understands it, in a way that maybe they thought, oh, the civil rights movement was 60 years ago. But black lives is now, right? Right. So he's giving people a chance to plug in now in a way that's relevant and contemporary. Right. What do you think is next? We've seen outrage poured out on the streets, people marching, galvanizing, organizing, a lot of people talk about now we need to see public policy change. What do you think in your personal experience with NAN, what do you think you guys are working on next to really put into play? Legislative. Change. Criminal justice change as we continue marching. And save you if you look at the history of the Civil Rights Movement even when I was a kid. Before I was involved. You started with sit ins, or lunch counter sit ins with students. Mm-hm. Then it was Corp did the Freedom Rider Martin Luther King never [UNKNOWN]. He never was a Freedom Rider. He led the marches and negotiated with Kennedy and then Johnson for legislation. Everybody had their lane. Malcolm was out criticizing all of it, Thurgood Marshall was in the courts, Harry Belafonte organized Hollywood. So, I think everybody ran in their lane But achieved the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and real change. I think that the young people in Black Lives Matter, that has very successfully focused a lot with social media, complements what we're doing in the civil rights organizations that ought to turn it into legislation. Complements what people like Devon is doing in terms of culture and commenting on We're not each other's competition, we ought to be each other's compliments. Exactly. Now sometimes heads bump. Dr. King and Malcolm didn't get along. We've romanticized that. Absolutely. There's nothing new about that. And I think that if we all understand and learn from history, then at the end of the day understand that if we don't have fundamental change, We will be looked at in history as phased, and I think that our job demand and in NAACP and others, is to make sure that we lead the fundamental legislative change [INAUDIBLE] in a criminal justice system change as others do whatever to make that change come about. What role do you think faith leaders play in today's movement? I think the role of the faith leader is incredibly vital... You know, because even with the somewhat assault on black churches recently, the black church is still the cornerstone of the black community. And I think it's important for faith leaders to stay invested and involved with what's going on in the community. And also, what's going on with the movement Because their parishioners are being effected by it on a daily basis. And not just police brutality, but the fight for not only equal rights but also equal pay. The fight for employment. The fight for healthcare. All these things are directly effected by the parishioners of majority of black churches in America. The faith leader is a key component. And not only advocating for the change, but being a conduit to the constituents on how to help them and help the community find what they really need and I find that going back to what Reverend Sharpton said about social media. It's important to use every bit of technology available to us right now to keep this message alive. When you look at the successful advocacy that the LGBTQ community has done. Now mind you, Prop 8 was just a few years ago. Mm-hm. And in a very short period of time the Supreme Court has now said gay rights, it's okay to get married, right? Mm-hm. So the goal within seven years almost And completely change policy. It came because they were strategic. They were organized and they were united. Even though there may been division between leaders in the community. They all got together and said, we have to move forward. Yeah. And we're gonna fight this thing with entertainment. We're going to fight this thing with programming, we're going to fight this thing with publicity, and I think it's the same thing. So I think [UNKNOWN] play a key component, but I also think it's important for all of us of color to find our corner of this issue and advocate from that corner. So for me being in entertainment and also being in ministry, it's like "How can I put the images on the screen?" Right, right. That can show black life in a different capacity. Right. Because the more we see, I think the better people will begin to understand that we're not just, you know, that person you think deserves, you know, to be treated less then. No. Actually we're not just the President, right? We are different roles and different images. And these images I think help shape culture and shape how we are treated. Defiantly. [UNKNOWN] we talk a lot about the young people and their involvement in the movement. How does National Action Network empower and galvanize the youth to really work around these issues?>> Well, one, first of all most of National Action Network is led by young people. Our executive director Jeanine is 35 years old. Most of our chapters are led by people in their early thirties. Late 20s, so I think one of the mistakes that mainstream media makes is they act like all young blacks are monolithical. All young blacks are not militant, anti church, anti organization. That's true. There are many and maybe more young people in the churches and in these organizations that are I think there's a legitimate youth movement among those [UNKNOWN] and a legitimate movement in these organizations. And we have a youth department, 17-year-old [UNKNOWN] is in our youth department. She join us when she was 11 years old. So, again, I was youth director of Operation Breadbasket, under Jesse Jackson Jesse's like thirteen, fourteen years older than me like Doctor King was twelve years older than him. So I grew up in the movement. Most of my friends my age were panthers, or black nationals. So you would get the picture that everybody in my generation was in the Panthers or Black Nationals. But I was the same age and I was in Operation Breadbasket. Why? Cuz I grew up in the church and the pastor said I want him, if he's gonna be political, to be with the minister. And I think that, that bedrock of the black church where young people work, you have more young people in youth congresses in churches than you have at a lot of things. They're not young cuz they're not what the media projects. And I think That the responsibility of a lot of us that have gotten older is that you make sure you empower and you bring about the next generation cuz you not gonna last. I tell my leaders all the time. We just had a convention in April. Our convention is probably the biggest of the civil rights conventions this year. And I tell them all the time. I say, yeah I started as a pre teenager, I had to go through the traps and run the traps like you did. I said, well let me tell you something, yeah right now I got a show on MSNBC, and I can go to the White House, and I can do this, that, and the other, but you know what I can't do? I can't be 40. [LAUGH] Right. So if I'm really about what I'm saying Exactly. I need to be able to empower some of them, cuz eventually somebody's gonna take the reins, sooner than later, for me. Right. And that's inevitable. So you don't fight inevitability. I come out the church. Moses and to Joshua and the Bible is about continuity. And we must have more of a continuity and succession of leadership. Than trying to hold on too long. And I promised to God that if I ever got in a position I would not fight the succession. Because I had to fight my elders. I know what a lot of these young people went through, because I went through it. It wasn't like nobody turned around and said okay, it's Al's chance. I had to rumble. I'm making sure that they don't have to rumble to take it from me. James Brown, who I became close with, always told me, leave the stage while there's still more. Don't leave the stage when they say, I wish Al would get off the stage. [LAUGH] In light of Charleston, what do you think faith leaders and parishioners should know? What's one thing that you want them to know, in terms of moving forward, Keeping the faith and really just keeping eyes on the prize, so to speak. Love, love, you know, and I think what's so powerful, the stories that have come out of Charleston, right? Not just the tragedy, but how that church responded to the tragedy. The forgiveness, right? The power of saying, we know you did this wrong, but we're still gonna love you anyway. And I believe that's one of the strongest messages we can take out of this is continue to love those communities that may not love us back because that is the fundamental message of the word that we stand upon. I think in addition to that, I think that we should not be afraid because fear will absolutely determine where we go which is not going to be succesful for the movement. I think it's important to continue to operate in love, to continue to know That as a community, we will get through this. And then also, I think, it's very, very important to continue to look at the terrorism that's happening right here in our own community. And for churches to begin to no longer, cuz so many times The church has become a way for people to come in, get a good worship experience and then go home. Yeah. So its been very selfishly focused for too long. I think now churches need to say how can we have a positive impact in the community. Not just so you can have a good worship experience But what's going on in our corners? What's going on within the community, and getting our members active, and more concerned, because I do believe when you look at Charleston, that church was very much entrenched in the community, right? And has been for a very long time. And I wanna see churches today get back to that, not just like, hey, let me come in and get a good worship experience and figure out how I can get further in my life. That is great. But getting further in your life was also directly connected to how much of an impact are you making on a day to day basis with the people that are affected by the building in that area. So my hope and my prayer is that this selfish idea of worship and ministry with incidents like Charleston, begin to broaden our understanding. That we have to help each other now. Mm-hm. We have to be there for each other. Listen. Who knows what's going to happen next right? We don't know. But we do know we serve a risen Saviour. We do know that he's still on the the throne. Mm-hm. And we do know at the end of the day those nine died in the word of God. Mm-hm. And we know where their future's gonna be. So the more we can continue to put that hope out there, I think that incidents like this won't be the end of the story, but I think they'll be a continuation of what more we have to do. Okay. I'm gonna end on that note. Reverend Al Sharpton and DeVon Franklin, thank you so much for joining us today. You've been watching Essence Speak Live, I'm Lauren Williams. And please be sure to tune in for more segments at Essence.com.

Essence.com
Jul, 29, 2015

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