17-Year-Old Makayla Gilliam-Price Is a Rising Voice in Baltimore

Makayla Gilliam-Price is a 17-year-old high school senior who is a rising voice in Baltimore's Black Lives Matter movement. (Amanda Voisard/For the Washington Post)
Makayla Gilliam-Price is a 17-year-old high school senior who is a rising voice in Baltimore’s Black Lives Matter movement. (Amanda Voisard/For the Washington Post)

Makayla Gilliam-Price is a 17-year-old high school senior applying to colleges. She’s also an activist bent on dismantling racism, on making Baltimore a place where black kids have an equal shot at safety, at an education, at the future. 

And already, Gilliam-Price has found her voice.

She found it at debate camp a couple of years before Freddie Gray suffered a fatal neck injury in police custody in April 2015, before national media trained klieg lights on her city.

“She was just a 15-year-old girl trying to figure things out,” said Adam Jackson, who coached her at that debate camp and who continues to mentor her through his work at the Baltimore group Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle. “Now she’s on a steady rise to be a world-class leader.”

Gilliam-Price believed the Black Lives Matter movement that grew out of protests in Ferguson, Mo., had to be about more than fighting police brutality. It had to be about fighting racism on other fronts, including segregated schools, academic tracking that kept black kids and poor kids from taking advanced classes, and immigration raids that made Latino students afraid to go to school.

“Saying black lives matter isn’t just about a black man being shot by a white police officer,” Gilliam-Price said.

She co-founded a grass-roots student organization, City Bloc; led a high school walkout to protest a proposal to arm school police; and helped organize rallies for police reform in Annapolis.

Six months after Gray’s death, she was among a group arrested during an October sit-in at Baltimore’s City Hall, a protest against police officers’ use of force and lack of community voice in the hiring of a new police commissioner. Her activism has been covered in the pages of the Baltimore Sun, Baltimore City Paper and the Nation.

And last week, a high-ranking Baltimore police officer and police union vice president was removed from his post and transferred to overnight security after Gilliam-Price wrote a blog post calling attention to tweets of his that she said showed “deeply entrenched racism” within the police department.

She wasn’t interested in taking the individual officer down, she wrote, but in highlighting the fact that he was allowed to be employed, in a position of great power, despite his public statements.

“Exposing the problematic actions of people in power can often shed light on not who, but what should be our true target: the systems that create and uphold the individual instances of oppression that we struggle against daily,” she wrote.

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Source: The Washington Post |  Emma Brown