Al Sharpton Responds to Critics Who Say His Movement Doesn’t Include Enough Younger Activists

Al Sharpton Responds to Critics Who Say His Movement Doesn't Include Enough Younger Activists
Lesley McSpadden, the mother of police shooting victim Michael Brown, and the Rev. Al Sharpton lead the Justice for All march through the nation’s capital Dec. 13, 2014, in Washington, D.C.
CHIP SOMODEVILLA/GETTY IMAGES

Within social-justice movements, tensions often surface between older and youngster activists—that’s hardly new. But the Rev. Al Sharpton says that recent criticism that he isn’t doing enough to groom younger, up-and-coming activists within his civil rights tradition is simply not true.

“This is more about ideology than it is about generational differences,” Sharpton told The Root. He pointed to dozens of his protégés—all in their 20s and 30s—who have committed themselves to the principles of an interracial and nonviolent movement.

“I have spent an inordinate amount of time trying to make sure that we can continue this movement and National Action Network for the next 30 to 40 years when I am gone,” he said. “Leadership cannot be willed. I can’t pass the torch. I can only keep the flame lit.”

For his part, Sharpton is not sure who will replace him after he exits the national stage, but he said that it’s not up to him to handpick his successor. That person “has to put in the work and earn it,” he said.

“I’m sure I was not Jesse’s [Jackson] choice. There were other guys who were probably more palpable to him,” said Sharpton, who as a teenager served as the youth director of Brooklyn’s Operation Breadbasket—the economic arm of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference that Jackson directed at the request of Martin Luther King Jr.

But by the mid-2000s, Sharpton had gone on to surpass his mentor in national prominence, much to the chagrin of those who had hoped that Sharpton would fade away from the public spotlight. “I was too young to know for sure, but it’s possible that Jesse wasn’t Dr. King’s choice, either,” he said.

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Source: The Root | 

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