Ferguson Activist Ashley Yates Talks Oakland, Assata Shakur and Black Woman Leadership

Saturday, July 15, 2017 By Lamont Lilly, Truthout | Interview

Ashley Yates is co-founder of the Ferguson-based grassroots organization Millennial Activists United (MAU). Originally from Florissant, Missouri, Yates was one of the early on-the-ground organizers following the unjust police murder of Mike Brown on August 9, 2014. In 2015, she was a Black Lives Matter representative at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

As one of the more vocal activists at the forefront of the Ferguson Rebellion, Yates’s many contributions have helped provide key leadership to a new generation of young freedom fighters and Black abolitionists. Affectionately described by CNN as a “disruptor of the status quo,” Yates’s thoughts and critiques on racism and state violence have been featured on NPR, Democracy Now!, The Huffington Post and MSNBC. In this interview, Yates discusses Assata Shakur, Black woman leadership and the recent housing developments in Oakland, California.

“…Being able to witness this for myself was so powerful. It really put a lot of things into perspective for me. It was a reminder of why it’s so important to create these relationships, to learn from each other.

One of the things I found out while I was down there [Brazil] is that, in addition to Israel, Brazil has also been a training site for US law enforcement. We’re talking about the LAPD, the FBI and the Chicago Police Department, [which] flew down to share tactics and information with Brazilian authorities and state police. We certainly cannot ignore these international partnerships that perpetuate our oppression, both locally and globally. If our oppressors are organizing globally, we should be organizing globally just as hard for our liberation…

…How can we talk about resistance without mentioning the Stonewall Rebellion? How can we talk about the Black Liberation Movement without mentioning James Baldwin? We can’t! I can’t imagine a movement without Black queer people, whether we’re talking 2014 or 1965.

In reference to Black women in general, we’ve been pushing back against that narrative since Harriet Tubman and Ida B. Wells. It’s a shame that Black women still have to be invited to a table that we helped create. As Solange [Knowles] would say, we’ve earned our seat at the table. Shit, we’ve earned several seats. Without Black women, there wouldn’t be no damn seats, no table, no nothing…”

Lilly Black Women Leadership July 2017

Black Lives Matter activists gather in McKeldin Square in Baltimore, Maryland on January 15, 2015. (Photo: Dorret / Flickr)

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