With the nation facing a moment of reckoning on race and over-policing, teen activism has become instrumental in the push to reimagine policing on school campuses.
One high school senior from LA who is making a difference is 17-year old Kahlila Williams. In an interview for "LA Times Today," Kahlila joined host Lisa McRee to talk about it.
The consistent coverage regarding George Floyd’s death inspired Kahlila and her friends to raise awareness of systematic injustices.
“My generation decided to get involved by calling representatives, by organizing and campaigning, making social posts and making sure people knew what happened. And, it really became this worldwide thing because we had these young people getting involved. People were also getting involved in the streets showing up. We saw a big increase in youth activism, in people campaigning who decided that enough is enough. It is sad to say that it took for the killing of George Floyd to happen for people to realize that we have to stand up for communities that have gone through this for years. But it was something that was needed regardless to say,” said Kahlila.
Along with raising awareness of the killing of George Floyd, Kahlila is also part of the coalition “Students Deserve,” which works to make sure Black Lives Matter in schools.
“We worked around different campaigns; in 2019, we ended the random searches campaign, which was a racist policy that was put into place and targeted Black, Latinx and Muslim students. They would come to our classrooms and would search our belongings, and students of color were the ones being targeted. It was not white students that were being called out—they had no reason to search them—it was always us,” added Kahlila.
In LAUSD, Kahlila says Black students makeup 8% of the population but count for 25% of police interactions.
“We should not have statistics like that. But we see this across the country and change needs to happen. The 'defund the school police campaign' which means that we are working on getting our schools to divest from policing. Instead, we are looking for services that help us students who do not criminalize us and do not make us feel targeted. So we are calling on our school board to get rid of our school police department and invest in services that we have been calling for, for years,” she added.
Kahlila says the Derek Chauvin trial and verdict was an emotional moment for her and her loved ones.
“I cannot imagine how it felt for the family because it was so hard for us, and we knew this could be one of the biggest cases that have ever been seen. So, when that verdict came, I was in school, but I just so happen to take a break. In the middle of my break, I saw that the verdict would be announced when I checked social media. There was so much going on and so much emotional pressure; I started thinking about the moment when we were waiting for the Trayvon Martin trial and when we were waiting for the Breonna Taylor verdict. There have been so many verdicts where many people were not charged with what they should have been. When I heard the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial, I knew that it was not justice because justice would be that George Floyd is still here, but it was accountability. It showed that we could seek accountability for the family’s who have lost loved ones to police violence,” Kahlila said.
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