One thing we all can say about the year 2020 is that it changed everything in our lives. Whether good or bad, we will no longer be the same. Who knew we would be in the middle of a pandemic fighting for our lives against a virus, while simultaneously fighting against racism and systemic oppression. During this current revolution, many organizations for change have been established; one being The People’s Uprising Taskforce in Atlanta, GA.
There have been numerous marches, donation pages, and other support resources to assist the after-effects of police brutality. Organizations such as The People’s Uprising Taskforce made it their mission to do everything they can to bring justice to those who have been wrongfully harmed. We spoke with Julius Thomas of The People’s Uprising, to learn more about their organization and the plans they have for the city of Atlanta.
Tell us what exactly is The People’s Uprising Taskforce, and why did you feel the need to start the organization?
The People’s Uprising Taskforce is a collective unit of elected officials, organizers, activists, Millennials and Gen-Z that are focused on defeating systemic oppression in the city of Atlanta and throughout the state of Georgia. Atlanta City Councilman, Antonio Brown, brought me into the birth of this almost five months ago. It inspired me to get more involved because as a black man I feel like it’s a duty. In the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, it built an uprising and I didn’t want it to just be a social media trend—I wanted it to be a social revolution that evokes effective change.
Along with you and Atlanta City Councilman, Antonio Brown, who all is included on the Executive Board?
I was recently appointed to the Executive Board. I was the Chairman for Young Atlanta Leaders, and now I’m on the Executive Board. We also have State Representative David Dreyer, State Representative Erica Thomas, Atlanta Commissioner Natalie Hall, State Representative Park Cannon, Dr. Rashad Richey, Mr. Randy Hazelton, and State Senator Nikema Williams.
Have you always been involved with Culture and Politics?
I’m more of a service-oriented type of guy where I just want to help people. I’ve always tried to do whatever I could to uplift those whose voices aren’t heard. In the city, I’ve partnered with a nonprofit called Antioch Urban Ministries. We advocate for low-income areas to give them the resources that they need. As far as politics, I’m still kind of new to the game and still learning. I graduated in 2018 from the University of Georgia and moved to Atlanta afterward. So with being in the area, I’ve been thrown into the political arena a lot. When I came here, I immediately saw a need in this city. I wanted to do everything I could to learn, serve and help people here.
During this journey, how has the current uprising changed your mindset?
It has elevated my mindset in a way that I became more aware of my surroundings and my interactions with people in general. This movement has motivated me to work towards a better tomorrow. Not just waiting for a better tomorrow, but to make it better today. I also see the age gap in Corporate America and in Politics. There’s a lot of old people still involved but not as many young people taking action to get things done. That’s kind of where my focus was at the beginning of this back in March (2020). I just wanted to join the fight and get into the nitty-gritty.
I also wanted to use any little influence that I had to enforce policy change and get people registered to vote. By joining this taskforce, I’m able to align my life’s mission to use whatever method to encourage young people that this is their country and there will be a better tomorrow.
What are some of the events you all have had so far?
Our first major event was a Voter Registration Rally during Juneteenth. We had a concert, over 5,000 people attended at Murphy Park. We registered people to vote, had COVID-19 testing for people that needed it in the West End area of Atlanta, and we had a small business pop-up. Atlanta rapper Lil Baby performed, along with YK Osiris and Queen Naija. That was an amazing event. Within the Taskforce, the group that I am the Chairman of (Young Atlanta Leaders) helped get this off the ground. It’s a group of 25 Millennial and Gen-Z ambitious activists who are between the ages of 18 and 35. It was a great way for us to also promote Juneteenth and making it a national trend in the city of Atlanta.
Another event was we led the city of Atlanta during the ‘Beauty In Colors Rally March’ in honor of Pride Month, which got picked up by the New York Times. We just wanted to speak up for the LGBTQ+ community, speak out and stand with them in solidarity. We also planned a freedom ride that we called the “Good Trouble Ride” to Louisville, Kentucky and Chattanooga, Tennessee to honor the late Congressman John Lewis. This bus ride was also to stand with the people in Louisville and Chattanooga to demand justice for Breonna Taylor and Reginald Arrington Jr.
With the current times, the older generation has passed the torch to us to be advocates for change. How has the Millennial and Gen-Z generation responded to the taskforce?
They have been the ones leading this taskforce. My community, the Young Atlanta Leaders, has been the engine of it. It’s moving so quickly and so powerful that the older people have to be like ‘’Woah, y’all slow down, we don’t even know what’s going on!” I am so proud of our generation because we are not backing down, we’re in this fight. We want to make change happen. We’re not just all talk, we’re about that action. I’ve been so pleased with the Young Atlanta Leaders, as well as young people across the country. They have led the charge and the older generation has stood up to the test and charge forward. They’re wanting to learn how to lobby, learn what they need to do to run for office, how to help low-income families to get more resources and dismantle systemic oppression.
On the other side of this, there are still some young people who have not been awakened to the revolution and are not optimistic about seeing the changes happening. What would you say to those young people to get them on board or open their minds to ways they can help?
I would say to them just take a look around your environment and ask yourself are you happy? Do you feel like your community is a prosperous environment? Do you feel safe, especially as a minority? I can guarantee you there will be something they’re not happy with. You do not have to stay unhappy and live in a space of discomfort, you are the solution. I feel like our generation doesn’t realize the power and influence that we really have sometimes. I would encourage them to re-evaluate how they see themselves and dig deep through their innermost being. They have the power to influence the change they want to see in this world. It may seem discouraging that change won’t happen overnight. However, there’s a shift happening and we need everyone involved in this shift. Especially with the election coming up in November.
What does the city of Atlanta need to do to start making these much-needed changes against systemic oppression?
I think Atlanta needs to be more open than they say to the new and fresh ideas of our generation. The ideas that we have are possible to achieve and it brings a different take on the normalized way of thinking. It’s new, it’s inventive, it’s different—and because it’s different, the older generation kind of shies away from it. I would encourage the city of Atlanta to work with us, not against us in achieving social change. Specific areas would be the continuous cycle of people outside of mid and north Atlanta not getting the resources and business opportunities. We need to focus more on community and improving the quality of their lives, not so much on corporate areas.
For example, the waterboys are getting bashed in Buckhead. People are complaining about them being in the streets selling water, but they may not have parents or homes to give them the needed resources. I’d rather have them selling water than selling crack. The city of Atlanta has the money and the resources to create marketing and entrepreneurship programs for these young black boys instead of just waving their finger at them.
What are you hoping to accomplish with The People’s Uprising to help bring justice to those who have been wrongly harmed?
I am hoping to completely dismantle systemic oppression in the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia. Every single person deserves the same opportunity to live out their dreams. I want to make sure everyone, especially Black and brown communities, have the resources they need to thrive and sit above this wave of a hurricane we’re all currently going through.