Umi Selah

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Umi Selah


Phillip Agnew (now Umi Selah) first came to community activism as a student at Florida A&M University after 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson was beaten to death at a Florida boot camp . Seven years later, in response to teen Trayvon Martin being killed, Agnew formed the Dream Defenders, which brought vigor and national attention to the Martin case from the start. The black-and-brown-youth-led Dream Defenders now has chapters on nine college campuses in Florida and highlights racial and social economic-justice issues like prison privatization, racial profiling and "zero tolerance" policies in schools -- which many believe lead students of color straight into the prison system. Although he was locked out as a speaker at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, Agnew kept it moving and put his remarks online. He tweeted: "We won't use this as an opportunity to bash older generations. They ran out of time. Youth will rise. And our time is now."[1]

He is the brother of Daniel Agnew.

"We fight for racial and economic justice"

Tomas Kennedy January 24, 2018:

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Kind of like The Avengers, except instead of crappy action movies we fight for racial and economic justice. #SWAG — with Tim Heberlein, Asa R. Rogers-Shaw, Stephanie Ighodaro, Yulissa Arce, Devin Coleman, Desmond Meade, Stephanie Porta, Andrea Mercado, Isabel Vinent Grimany and Phillip Agnew.

Influence

Umi Selah is Co-Director of Dream Defenders.

Umi Selah, a native of Chicago, Ill., and co-founder of the Dream Defenders. He found his voice as one of today’s most prolific community activists while a student at FAMU. In addition to serving as student body president from 2006-2007, a student member of the Board of Trustees, and the co-chair of the University’s Vote Coalition, he was recognized as a national IMPACT Leader and as one of the top student leaders in the nation by the Diversity Leadership Conference.

In 2008, he was honored with the University’s prestigious Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Student Leadership Award. Umi emerged as a national activist when he helped to organize students from FAMU, Florida State University and Tallahassee Community College in the creation of the Student Coalition for Justice, which was formed in response to the Martin Lee Anderson case. In 2012, he co-founded the Dream Defenders and has been dubbed “one of this generation’s leading voices” and recognized by both EBONY magazine and The Root as one of the 100 most influential African Americans in the nation. His work in community activism has been highlighted internationally, including on MSNBC and in the Huffington Post, USA Today, the Guardian and Democracy Now. Umi is a 2008 graduate of FAMU’s School of Business and Industry and is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.[2]

National Leading From the Inside Out Alum

Umi Selah, Co-Director, The Dream Defenders, was a 2016 Rockwood Leadership Institute National Leading From the Inside Out Alum.[3]

Power U "family reunion"

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Ruth Thomas August 28, 2016 ·

One of my favorite pictures of the Power U Family reunion — with Tyrone Brown, Hashim Benford and Umi Selah.

Dream defenders

Agnew was the student body vice president at Florida A&M University when 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson was beaten to death at a Florida boot camp in 2006. At the time, Agnew was more interested in parties than protests. But when he realized that Martin Lee Anderson was the same age as his own little brother, Agnew joined student-led efforts to demonstrate at the Capitol.

That's when he got to know Gabriel Pendas and Ahmad Abuznaid, like-minded student leaders at Florida State University.

The three helped organize a 33-hour sit-in of then Gov. Jeb Bush's office. The demonstration received national coverage, and helped prompt the closing of the boot camp and the resignation of the state's top law enforcement official.

It was a formative experience for the three young men. Pendas, who grew up in Miami, abandoned his plans to become a physicist and pursued a career in community organizing.

Agnew, the son of a Chicago preacher, said he, too, found his calling.

"I spoke in front of 5,000 people," he recalled. "I literally opened my mouth and my father came out. It was like, this is what I was meant to do."

The three friends "became brothers that night," Pendas said.

After college, however, they lost touch. Pendas moved to New York to work as a community organizer in the Bronx. Abuznaid graduated from law school and was living with his father in Amsterdam.

Agnew was working a pharmaceutical sales rep in Charlotte.

"I hated my job," he said. "I felt horrible about what I was doing."

When the Occupy movement took hold in September 2011, Agnew began to agitate. Five months later, Zimmerman shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in a gated-community in Sanford.

Agnew got on the phone with Pendas, Abuznaid and the others who had taken part in the 2006 protest. They planned a 40-person march from Daytona to Sanford in April 2012. When the group arrived, six members blocked the door to the Sanford Police Department headquarters to protest the fact that Zimmerman had not yet been arrested.

"It was a continuation of our work with Martin Lee Anderson," Pendas said. "Another young man of color had been killed. We needed to take a stand."

They had a new name: the Dream Defenders.

"It was the perfect framework," Pendas said. "Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream. Millions of Latino students have a dream." The latter is a reference to the fight in Congress undocumented immigrant children are waging to gain legal status through the DREAM Act.

The march turned out to be just the beginning. A handful of current FAMU and Florida State students had become involved in the Dream Defenders through Facebook and Twitter. And the young activists were hungry for next steps.

That's when the idea really coalesced. The Dream Defenders would do more than just advocate for social justice causes. They would develop the next generation of student leaders.

Agnew, Abuznaid and Pendas moved into a house in Miami Lakes — it was later nicknamed the "Dream House" — and began to develop the organization.

The Dream Defenders now has chapters on nine college campuses in Florida. More than 100 student members have campaigned to end prison privatization, racial profiling and zero tolerance policies in schools.

"They make the decisions on what kind of campaigns they want to run and we help them facilitate it," said Abuznaid, who serves as the group's legal and policy director. "The leadership is shared between us and the students."

The organization survives on private donations and contributions from local unions. Agnew receives a small salary as executive director, but Abuznaid, Pendas and the other staffers work for free. They hope to continue expanding and eventually, have a fully funded staff that receives health benefits.[4]

Black voters

Aired on November 04 , 2014, Eric Mann holds a conversation with Phillip Agnew of Dream Defenders and Gihan Perera of New Florida Majority to discuss the political state of people of color as it relates to the election process. Some of the topics discussed are, voter suppression tactics and laws that are and have been pushed through legislation by right wing agents, black and brown unity, and building a united front against the extreme right.[5]

Unity call

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The New Florida Majority, November 2, 2014;

Senators Dwight Bullard and Chris Smith join Phillip Agnew, Alphonso Mayfield, Gihan Perera, Katia St. Fleur, Maria Rodriquez, and Desmond Meade for a unity call this evening. #BlackVotesMatter or #UNITYcall to join the conversation on Twitter.

Dream Defenders Palestine Delegation

Dream Defenders Palestine Delegation toured "Palestine" and in Israel, early January 2015.

The full list of delegates included five Dream Defenders (Phillip Agnew, Ciara Taylor, Steven Pargett, Sherika Shaw Ahmad Abuznaid), Tef Poe and Tara Thompson (Ferguson/Hands Up United), journalist Marc Lamont Hill, Cherrell Brown and Carmen Perez (Justice League NYC), Charlene Carruthers (Black Youth Project), poet and artist Aja Monet, Patrisse Cullors (Black Lives Matter), and Maytha Alhassen.[6]
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On a historic trip to Palestine, freedom fighters from Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, New York, Ferguson, and Atlanta were able to witness firsthand the effects of Israeli apartheid and occupation, and to learn from the people who are actively resisting on the front lines. In Nazareth, the delegates decided to do a solidarity demonstration as a call for support of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign that was called for by Palestinian civil society in 2005.

This demonstration was coordinated by Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬, and features "Ella's Song" by Sweet Honey in the Rock, sung by Charlene Carruthers, National Director of the Black Youth Project 100 and Dream Defenders’ Executive Director Phillip Agnew; poet, artist, and New York Justice League member, Aja Monet; rapper and Ferguson/Hands Up United organizer Tef Poe, and Ferguson/ Hands Up United organizer, Tara Thompson. Dream Defenders Ciara Taylor, Steven Pargett, Sherika Shaw, and Ahmad Abuznaid, journalist Marc Lamont Hill, New York Justice League organizers Cherrell Brown and Carmen Perez, and Maytha Alhassen, a University of Southern California Doctoral Candidate, are seen preforming the debke, a traditional Palestinian folk dance.[7]

Palestine 2017

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Ahmad Abuznaid with Umi Selah.

Visiting the White House

President Obama’s senior adviser Valerie Jarrett met with Black Lives Matter activists September 16, 2015 at the White House, the latest sign that the Obama administration is involved with the controversial protest group.

Jarrett met with three organizers for Campaign Zero. DeRay Mckesson, Brittany Packnett, and Johnetta Elzie as well as Phillip Agnew of the Dream Defenders and Jamye Wooten, an organizer for Baltimore United for Change were there, according to a senior White House official who confirmed the visit to Buzzfeed.

After the meeting, Packnett tweeted a selfie with Jarrett thanking her for engaging the movement.

“Great meeting, Brittany. Truly appreciate your leadership!!” Jarrett replied on Twitter. Packnett has six recorded entries of visiting the complex long before the protests in Ferguson. She also was among the select group of Ferguson activists that met with Obama in December 2014. “I could tell he is taking this very personally,” Packnett explained after the 45 minute meeting with the president in the Oval Office. “He wants to see some clear, thoughtful action come from this.”

She also revealed that Obama sympathized with the movement, thanks to his background as a community organizer in Chicago.

“He offered us a lot of encouragement with his background as a community organizer, and told us that even incremental changes were progress,” she told reporters after the meeting. “He didn’t want us to get discouraged. He said, ‘Keep speaking truth to power.’”

Packnett was also selected as a member of Obama’s presidential task force on 21st century policing – and has a long record of activism in St. Louis including some time spent in Washington D.C.[8]

“Ban The Box”

Florida A&M University’s law school hosted a forum November 2015 for the national “Ban The Box” campaign with a panel featuring attorneys, social activists and influential people in academia.

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The highly esteemed panelists included the star of the show “Judge Mathis” and social activist Judge Greg Mathis; FAMU alumnus and author Anthony Dixon; Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum; civil rights attorney Ted Shaw; Umi Selah, formerly known as Phillip Agnew, the executive director of the Miami-based Dream Defenders; Sharon Ames-Dennard; and Judge Belvin Perry.

“Ban The Box” is a campaign advocating for the end of structural discrimination against people with conviction and incarceration histories, primarily in the areas of hiring and housing policy, according to bantheboxcampaign.org.

FAMU President Elmira Mangum said in a released statement that “Ban the Box” is only a small portion of the social injustices that have been arising.

“I believe ‘Ban the Box’ discussions are a part of a much broader set of issues concerning social justice that students need to be aware of,” Mangum said. “We have to seek solutions through inclusion.”

The campaign asks employers to remove questions regarding conviction history from their employment applications and to adopt hiring practices that give applicants a fair chance.

Nineteen states have put in place statewide fair-chance policies, according to nelp.org. Although Florida is not one of those states, Tallahassee, Tampa and other cities in the state have adopted the fair-chance policy.

The forum discussed what they believed to be the apparent root of so many incarcerations of young people. Anthony Dixon said incarceration is a cycle that thrives off of hopelessness and lack of education.

The forum also tackled the issue of inequities and discrimination formerly incarcerated people face, African-Americans particularly. Judge Mathis said the denial of equal opportunity and a failed education system is to blame.

"Mayor Andrew Gillum, who was being honored the same night for his service to the community at the Root 100 Gala, said people who have done time should be able to start from a clean slate.

“I believe people who have paid their debt to society ought to be given the chance to make it in our community. Finding employment is one of the biggest challenges that formerly incarcerated people face,” Gillum said.[9]

With the DC Dream Defenders

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Umi Selah, April 21, 2014 ·

Dream Defenders would love to spend time with their DC friends, family, and supporters this month! On Thursday, April 24th, Dream Defenders will be hosting a social at Red Rocks in DC to see you all.

The event will be a cultural gathering of the Dream Defenders' community in DC, featuring brief presentations from the Dream Defenders team, artwork, drinks, and good company. Blacked Out History M... See More — with Malu Brooks, Alana J. Hill, Angel Elliott, Corey Dade, Jade Ogunnaike, Steven Jumper, Rontel Batie, Hugh Harris, Rafael Navar, Jimmy Jay Hernandez, Aimee Ferg, Larry Ferguson, Brandon W. Ellis, Ashley Golden Brown, David Jr G, Maya Ayanna Darasaw, Aisha Alexander, Joy Lawson, Eddy Morales and Juliana Guzman-Morales.

Rockwood leadership Institute

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Umi Selah studied at the Rockwood Leadership Institute, circa 2015.

1st Anniversary of the #Ferguson Uprising

Maurice Moe Mitchell August 5, 2015,

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  1. UnitedWeFight: 1st Anniversary of the #Ferguson Uprising - National Conference Call. Thurs. 8PM EST / 7PM CST Register at http://bit.ly/uwfcall — with Justin Hansford, Scott A. Roberts, Mary Hooks, Kayla M. Reed, Diamond Latchison, Kareem Jackson, Bukky Gbadegesin, Katrina Gamble, Tanya Lucia Bernard, Tory Russell, Cedric Lawson, Alicia Garza, Leslie Mac, Charlene Carruthers, Patrisse Cullors, Cherrell Brown, Dante Barry, Waltrina N. Middleton, Damon Turner, Marbre Stahly-Butts, Ash-Lee Henderson, Damon Davis, Thenjiwe Tameika McHarris, Mari Morales-Williams, Mervyn Marcano, Nicole Lee, Elandria Williams, Opal Ayo, Jonathan Pulphus, Dara Cooper, Michael McBride, Umi Selah, Osagyefo Sekou, Tara Tee, Rose Berry, Sistufara W. Muhammad, Purvi Shah, Cid Nichols, Ingrid Benedict, Jade Ogunnaike, James Hayes, Anita Nichole, Joe Worthy and The Movement for Black Lives.

Florida comrades

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Francesca Menes, June 11 2016, with Maria Asuncion Bilbao, Umi Selah, Tia Oso, Gabriel Garcia-Vera, Alana Greer, Marleine Bastien, Meena Jagannath, Eel Kat, Esi Fynn-Obeng, Lis-Marie Gueguense, Ruth Jeannoel, Kathy Bird Carvajal, Tomas Kennedy, Natalia Jaramillo, Maria Rodriguez, LiLi Bach, Trina Jackson, Marcia Olivo, Daniel Agnew, Francois Alexandre, Karla De Anda, Valencia Gunder, Donald Anthonyson, Opal Ayo and Hulya Miclisse-Polat.

Miami Peoples Climate March

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Cece Lia circulated an October 9, 2016 meme about the Miami Peoples Climate March

PLEASE SHARE: Join us for the People’s Climate March October 23rd at 1:00! http://bit.ly/miamipcm16 #ResilientMiami #PeoplesClimate #ActOnClimate — with Sam Van Leer, Rachel Collins, Drey Aradanas, Bruce Stanley, Glo Ruiz, Danielle Steele, Cynthia Selene Hernandez, Tomas Kennedy, Gladys Harlow, Natalia Arias, Jack Lieberman, Zelalem Negussie, Gabriel Garcia-Vera, Pablo Terraza, Becca Pelham, Camilo Mejia, Sarah Younger, Michelle Allen, David McDougal, Umi Selah, Andrea Nunez, Jason Dilan, Andrea Going Green, Elizabeth Marie Taveras, Pete Gonzalez, Kaydrianne Young and Alex Rosales.

Comrades

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Umi Selah September 14, 2016 ·

"With Chardonnay Ndegeocello Singleton and Jonel Edwards.

Beyond Impact II

Beyond Impact II: The Importance of 501(c)(4) Funding in Dismantling Mass Incarceration, July 12, 2017.[10]

Inspiration from the Sunshine State

Now What? Defying Trump and the Left's Way Forward

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Now What? Defying Trump and the Left's Way Forward was a phone in webinar organized by Freedom Road Socialist Organization in the wake of the 2016 election.

Now what? We’re all asking ourselves that question in the wake of Trump’s victory. We’ve got urgent strategizing and work to do, together. Join Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson of the Movement for Black Lives and Freedom Road, Calvin Cheung-Miaw, Jodeen Olguin-Taylor of Mijente and WFP, Joe Schwartz of the Democratic Socialists of America, and Sendolo Diaminah of Freedom Road for a discussion of what happened, and what we should be doing to build mass defiance. And above all, how do we build the Left in this, which we know is the only solution to the crises we face?

This event will take place Tuesday November 15, 2016 at 9pm Eastern/8pm Central/6pm Pacific.

Those invited, on Facebook included Umi Selah.[11]

Supporting Gillum

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Dreamers

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Phillip Agnew, Ahmad Abuznaid.

References