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Civil Rights Movement 2018

by Chris Flight | 1 year ago

I have been to the Ebenezer Baptist Church in which Dr. King spoke, I have crossed the Edmund Pettis Bridge where the infamous Bloody Sunday occurred, and I have been to the Lorraine Motel where Dr. King was shot.

Today, we celebrate Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s Birthday or what can also be referred to as Civil Rights Day – after all, should Dr. King be here today, would it really be about him or the movement and people he spoke for?

This day has significant meaning for me as the Civil Rights movement really shaped my life and built the foundation of principals I live with today.  It inspired me to minor in African-American studies, to educate myself on human behavior and how organized activism can create change for the better.  I’d like to thank Sojourn to the Past who provided this opportunity for me when I was in High School to learn about the Civil Rights movement with an interactive learning experience by visiting the monuments, meeting the heroes, and inspiring generations.

I clearly recall some of the highlights of traveling to these different monuments with Little Rock Nine hero, Minniejean Brown-Trickey and also having an opportunity to meet and speak with current Congressman, John Lewis.  These are once in a lifetime experiences that stay with you as images of the Little Rock Nine and Bloody Sunday appear every year around this time.

Bottom row (L-R): Thelma Mothershed, Minnijean Brown, Elizabeth Eckford, Gloria Ray; Top row (L-R): Jefferson Thomas, Melba Pattillo, Terrence Roberts, Carlotta Walls, Daisy Bates (NAACP President), Ernest Green, 1957. (Credit: Everett Collection Historical/Alamy Stock Photo)
An alternate-angle view of Elizabeth Eckford on her first day of school, in a photo taken by an Associated Press photographer. Hazel Bryan can be seen behind her in the crowd. (Credit: Bettmann/Getty Images)

 

Can you imagine the strength of these individuals and their familes?  To face adversity head-on in the name of diversity and education.   To put the cause and future generations ahead of your own safety and comfort.

Alabama state troopers assault civil rights voting marchers, including John Lewis. (Credit: AP Photo/File)

 

Or the graphic images of those who were brutally beaten on the Edmund Pettis Bridge marching to Selma.  These incidents and images occurred over 50 years ago but the ideologies of this racist hate are still very present today.

The Civil Rights Movement is absolutely fascinating because it is the period of time in American history where love and sacrifice conquered hate and fear.  On one end, it challenged many Americans to self-identify as human beings, to question their own core values and to evaluate what is morally just in this world.  On the other end, it showed the resilience and perseverance of individuals and groups who put their own safety and comfort aside to fight for the greater good.

As we honor Dr. King and the entire Civil Rights movement today, we should not only honor it but once again study it.  We need to identify the successes and the failures of then and apply an evolved version to now.  A version that includes mainstream media and social media – how voices of millions can be seen and heard across the world in a matter of minutes.

Perhaps what our contemporary movements of Black Lives Matter and Women’s Rights (MeToo and TimesUp) really need are more centralized leaders such as Dr. King or Malcolm X.  After all, when one person speaks in a crowded yet quiet auditorium, it is much more effective than 5 people speaking either at the same time or one after another.  Apply this theory to social media and this is the world we live in.  One video, tweet, or post of 5 Million views is so much more likely to “trend” or be put at the top of your news feed along with millions more as opposed to 5 different videos with 1 Million Views each.  This is because of how our social media algorithms work and when millions of voices (likes, comments, re-tweets and overall engagements) are funneled through social media into one central figure….anything can happen.  Anything.