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Young, Black Leaders Step Up In Milwaukee Protests To 'Take Back Power That Was Taken Away'

Maayan Silver
Several youth leaders, including Jonathan Rogers (middle right) and Eric Patrick Lucas III (middle left), organized the Young, Gifted & Black Rally in Sherman Park.

There were a number of demonstrations in the Milwaukee area this weekend to protest the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, and to stand in solidarity with civil rights marchers around the world. One of the events was a show of love and support for Milwaukee’s youth.

The “Young, Gifted & Black” rally in Sherman Park celebrated 2020 graduates and black excellence.

Two teenagers who helped organize the event for the Urban Underground are 17-year-old Eric Patrick Lucas III and 18-year-old Jonathan Rogers, a recent high school grad. They arrived early at Parklawn Assembly of God Sunday afternoon — where the march to the Sherman Phoenix would begin.

As cars whizzed by on Sherman Boulevard, Rogers explained why he and Lucas have gotten involved in protesting systemic racism and violence by police: "To be heard, to get our point across. We want to send a message to everybody, you know, about how police are doing us wrong, how we get treated wrong, [by] police, non-police.”

>>Latest WUWM & NPR Protest Coverage

Credit Maayan Silver
Young marchers gather at Parklawn Assembly of God Church in Sherman Park to celebrate Black excellence and protest racial injustice.

Lucas said it’s important for youth to speak up because more often than not, their feelings are cast aside, while they’re the ones who are affected the most. “So, this is just us taking back that power that was taken away from us," he said. "So like, ‘OK, I'm a youth, I'm black. I'm brown. I'm beautiful, and I'm gifted, I got gifts. They’re beautiful. I gotta put something powerful together and show the message that we are not just violent, that we're not thugs, that we’re not the status quo, we don’t fall under that. We’re better than that.” 

Lucas said it’s time for a change. "I was actually the person that got spat on [Saturday] by a white woman while leaving a protest," he said. "And that just goes to show the injustices that we go through every day on a day-to-day basis, and I'm only 17 years old."

A Shorewood attorney was arrested for spitting in Lucas’ face after she refused to move her car for the protesters and they approached her chanting, "I’m black, I’m proud."

"I was actually the person that got spat on by a white woman while leaving a protest. And that just goes to show the injustices that we go through every day on a day-to-day basis, and I'm only 17 years old." - Eric Patrick Lucas III

Lucas described his response: "I had to walk away and be more mature than she was at the time, as a 17-year-old and just continue to walk forward. Hey, we got to keep this going. Because we can't let her stop what we got to do. So not only do I feel like I'm putting away my pride and I'm putting away, you know what I'm saying, my dignity, I still think about the other narrative that would have been served had I did react to me being assaulted.” 

He said he wants young leaders to help control the narrative – building on the momentum from more than a week of protests in the Milwaukee area and spurring real change in how society treats people of color.

"I got younger siblings, I got siblings that look like me," Lucas said. "And by all means, I don't want to have to continue to tell them the same story, just in different ways with a different name on it. You know, it used to be Rodney King. Then it was Trayvon Martin. Now it’s Breonna Taylor and George Floyd."

Lucas and Rogers said they’re part of a generation that can make a difference.

Maayan is a WUWM news reporter.
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