Founded on February 1, 2013 by Rev. Jedidiah Brown, the Chicago-based Young Leaders Alliance (YLA) describes itself as “a multicultural direct-action organization” that provides aspiring activists with training in the arts of “leadership, civic responsibility, alliance building, and public demonstrations.” Composed of local “community stakeholders,” YLA's long-term plan is to expand into a nationwide network known as the “Community of Country,” whose chapters will strive to help the residents of their respective neighborhoods to “become a part of the [political] power” structure and thereby “transform” those places into “thriving, safe, educated, and engaged” places.
By YLA's calculus, “the impoverished, racial minorities, and the young” experience disproportionately high levels of unemployment because of “inexcusable political inaction” and “indifference” by U.S. legislators and policymakers on the local, state, and national levels.
Steeped in identity politics, YLA openly encourages African Americans to protect “the needs of the black community” by voting in elections as a racial bloc. When Jesus “Chuy” Garcia challenged incumbent Rahm Emanuel in the race for Chicago mayor in 2014-15, for instance, YLA reminded “black voters” that they constituted “47% of the electorate” and would thus “determine this mayoral election.”
In January 2014, YLA's Facebook page linked to an article calling for the abolition of capital punishment because, “according to the Innocence Project, 311 people in U.S. history, 18 of whom were sentenced to the death penalty, have been freed after DNA evidence proved them innocent.” Of particular concern to YLA is the (false) notion that the death penalty is applied in a racially discriminatory manner that is disadvantageous to black defendants.
In December 2014, YLA staged a rally to: (a) condemn the purported epidemics of “police brutality” and “mass incarceration” against African Americans; (b) implore President Barack Obama to directly address the American people about the urgency of “committing to end the war on black and brown lives”; and (c) “stand in solidarity … to declare that black lives matter.”
In May 2015, YLA lauded Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as someone with the courage to “sa[y] what no other politician has the balls to say about police brutality, the justice system, and the killings of African Americans by law-enforcement personnel.” But soon thereafter, the organization shifted its allegiance to Mrs. Clinton's chief rival in the Democratic primaries, Senator Bernie Sanders.
YLA was outraged by an October 2015 incident where the owner of the Chicago-based food store Valley of Jordan had allegedly, by YLA's telling, carried out a “vicious attack” against a 12-year-old black male patron. Specifically, YLA maintained that the proprietor had “pushed, kneed, and kicked the child” before spitting into his face, and that he therefore “should not be allowed to operate a business.” The store owner, for his part, denied that he had physically assaulted the boy; claimed that the youngster had tried to conceal certain items from him at the cash register; and said that the boy had been a habitual troublemaker in the market on previous occasions. With regard to YLA's allegation that he was a racist, the man said: “My wife is black. We’ve been married for 19 years. How can I be a racist?” Nonetheless, YLA participated in street protests and a boycott against the store.