The term “activism” accurately describes what organizations such as the Dream Defenders are doing in response to the slaughtering of black and brown people across the nation. Through small scale operations in battered communities, the Dream Defenders show how one can actively defend the dream.
They initially pursued this effort of activism by creating “squadds” that would be housed on campuses including Florida A&M University and the University of Florida. This campus-based initiative came natural to the likes of Umi Selah, formally known as Phillip Agnew, who was a college student at the time. Most recently, the university-based “squadds” have been dismantled and replaced by a more grassroots effort.
The focus is now on affected communities, such as Opa Locka and St. Pete, where members can have a direct connection with the residents. This movement may not have been noticed by many but Selah wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Most of the stuff that the Dream Defenders is a part of doing never makes it to Instagram and on the filters and snapchat and all of that s**t (but) that is where the real work happens, and we need more people to dedicate to that,” Selah said.
He believes that many students are more caught up in appearing that they are committed to the cause on their social media accounts rather than actually participating in seeking change.
Dream Defenders advisory board member and attorney Alana Greer shared the importance of young people being actively involved in any movement.
“Young people have to lead us. Professionals and older folks and people with mortgages … are really important allies with this but the history of movements have always been with young people who are sick and tired and can see something better for themselves,” Greer said. “We need you all to be the voice that leads us forward.”
The Dream Defenders have also realized the importance of young people making change as they are pursuing teaching an elective course at Florida Memorial University to spread their knowledge and continue the trend of being proactive rather than reactive.
One of these proactive members is former FAMU Squadd president and third-year broadcast journalism student Jessika Ward. She explained the power in basic communication.
“It starts with a conversation, reaching out to people who maybe think different than you,” Ward said. “I think that everything that is going on in the world is just a misunderstanding of people. We don’t understand each other. We don’t understand the different backgrounds. If we just listen to what everyone had to say, how everyone feels, we all might think differently and it could be better.”
The Dream Defenders’ ultimate plan is to end youth incarceration in Florida by 2022 and end the prison industrial complex in Florida in their lifetime. To stay abreast of current initiatives and become a part of defending the dream, visit www.dreamdefenders.org