In the wake of the McKinney, Texas, pool party incident, in which a white police officer used excessive force on an unarmed Black 15-year-old female, women gathered recently at the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Center in Harlem to discuss oppression, racism and protecting the quality of youth.

“When you hear about what’s happening in Mexico, Palestine, Africa, across the universe, it should be a clear indication to us that the only solution is to uncompromisingly fight the mentality of oppression wherever it bears its ugly head,” said Ramona Africa, a MOVE member and follower of John Africa, who is the lone survivor of the May 13, 1985, police-government residential bombing in Philadelphia. “We have to be committed to ridding the world of oppression.”

In an op-ed piece titled, “Ferguson Is Still Everywhere if You’re Black,” Rika Tyler and T-Dubb-O said, “We must start moving in a way to create our own narrative. This means doing our own investigations of these incidents involving officers, who are sworn to protect and serve us. The system itself also needs investigating. We need policies that establish accountability. Accountability by police would mean them taking responsibility, being liable and answerable for these travesties of justice.”

Cherrell Brown, national organizer at Equal Justice USA, spoke of the McKinney pool party incident and involved the audience through an exercise. She had everyone close their eyes and imagine a world that is safe for our children. Fifteen seconds later, she asked for responses, which ranged from homes and comfort to communities without cops.

“Did you imagine cops or jail cells or immigration police or G4s?” she asked. No one raised a hand. “In a neoliberal society, this is what we are told safety means,” she said.

“Everyone is influenced by this system,” said Africa. “When you see the racism, oppression, terrorism, it’s coming from this system. In order to really engage with true revolution, we have to be ready to let the system go, be serious and committed about doing what’s right, fighting for what’s right and knowing that means acknowledging life.”

In regard to the young girl in Texas, Dequi Kioni-Sadiki said, “African and indigenous children have never been safe under imperialism, capitalism and colonialism. The police are but an extension of those systems.” She is a member of the New York City chapter of the Jericho Movement for Amnesty & Recognition of U.S.-held Political Prisoners and POWs, many of whom are members of the Black Panther Party.

Kioni-Sadiki said that police terrorism, poverty and political imprisonment is what draws women to struggle because they understand what it’s like to watch their children being sold away, sitting in a courtroom with the lawless judges deciding their fate and determining a bail they don’t have to bring their children home.

“You know on a profoundly deep level what that means,” she said. “They only call it violence when we resist. We have to change that definition. We have a right to self-determination, to protect ourselves and our families.”

She said that we have allowed other people to make us believe what resistance looks like and that it was important for older generations to teach the youth about history.

“We got to do better,” she added. “Your children are gonna know and understand on another level and do what they gotta do to contribute to our resistance.”

Nerdeen Kiswani of Students for Justice in Palestine at Hunter College said the only reason she knows about her history, colonization and Palestinian rights is because of her grandma.

“She lived through 1948 when Israel was established,” Kiswani said. “She is going to be the last generation to have experienced Palestine before Israel. These stories are passed down by grandmothers, mothers—always women. If I didn’t hear it from her, I wouldn’t have heard it anywhere else.”

On the topic of children and struggle, Harrabic Tubman, co-founder of Existence is Resistance, said she watched a man on TV from Gaza explain how they are with the resistance until the last baby in Gaza is here.

“If you’re in a cage and someone keeps poking in, all you going to do is get out that cage,” she said. “Palestinians are completely closed off. They can’t leave. All they have is resistance without freedom.”

She said children have to be ready to defend themselves through community training because in Palestine, it is everyday life and they are already learning to cover wounds when someone is shot.

“We have to build in our own communities,” Tubman said. “Until its your kid, you want everyone to come out. When you step out, it makes the oppressor step back.”

Africa added that people are taught by the system to do nothing by themselves, depending on the system to take care of them, which is a dangerous mentality.

“You can see with your own child, sister, mother, father—you can see that they are innocent,” she said. “But a cop or anyone else comes around and uses them, brainwashes them, saying, ‘I don’t care what you say or saw. I’m the law. I’m going to take care of this.’”

Africa emphasized that being quiet and going along with the program does guarantee security.

“Only fighting back, being uncompromisable is what secures you,” she said. “Everything starts with a thought. We have to think strong in order to be strong, think right in order to be right. That’s the road we have to travel. If you’re not thinking right, you can’t do right and you can’t be right.”

It is important to contextualize the past with the present through political education. Kioni-Sadiki believes it is a disservice not to teach younger generations about the people who were involved in resistance.

“It’s not just about police terror now,” she said. “It’s about seven generations from now. Our silence won’t protect us. It allows ignorance to flourish and people to get away with hypocrisy and contradictions, which turns into greater levels of oppression. Our children’s children should not be fighting the same levels of oppression.”

Leila Khaled said that oppression has many faces, including humiliation, deprivation and injustice. She is a Palestinian revolutionary well known for her history of fighting against Israel’s consumption of what was originally Palestine.

Angelica Lara, 24, of Ayotzinapa Student Front, said, “Everyone has a piece of Mexico except the Mexican people. It’s created violence, repression, anger. I’m a Mexican woman and I’ve seen what they’ve done to our mothers, sons and daughters. There’s 43 missing students in Mexico right now. We’re not willing to sacrifice our people anymore.

“I thought it was beautiful to say that we’re not only looking out for our children but for everyone’s children because they all matter. Even if you are a woman and not a mother, you can still stand and say I will give my life for this child.”

Brown, of Equal Justice USA, said it is important to make the information accessible to people. Africa added that everyone doesn’t have Facebook or use email, so contacting people through one-on-one sessions and knocking on doors is necessary. Kioni-Sadiki encouraged collectively using resources to make change.

A Black male audience member said that people don’t care for understanding why people feel the way they do or why oppressed people are emotional.

“They don’t want you to think that things Malcolm X said are still relevant today,” he said. “When it comes to these discussions, it’s about teaching kids the right way to speak and defend themselves. It’s about how parents lecture kids at home to give them that free-thinking engine to learn how to assess certain things and the things people bring to them to distract them from their injustices.”

The panelist did not want the audience to confuse the meaning of violence. “Don’t ever let anyone say you’re violent for defending yourself,” Africa said.

She asked why newscasters didn’t use the term violence against the cops who killed Freddie Gray. “We have to stop thinking of self-defense in terms of violence,” she said. “It’s the instinct in every human being by the creator of life, God, and it is not wrong.”

Kiswani, of Students for Justice in Palestine, said violence is children starving and people being denied access to their rights and education.

“Asking people to resist non-violently is ultimately asking them to accept their own massacres,” she said.

Existence is Resistance started in 2009, after the first Israeli massacre in Gaza, the Cast Lead operation. The organization was founded to bring awareness of Palestine to New York City through use of cultural arts to speak the community about bombings and war.

“Our existence itself is resistance,” said Ayman El-sayed, co-founder of EIR. “The fact that Palestinian people are still standing strong, speaking out, resisting and fighting for their rights. They are building a solidarity movement worldwide. They are gaining so much traction in the struggle and getting more support internationally, which shows that their existence alone is an act of resistance.”