The power of change: Remember the past
By Conor Kelly (TheLorian)
In early July, protesters in Hollywood were the victims of a vehicular assault, resulting in a hospitalization. In July, protesters in New York were threatened by a pickup truck, which sped past the protesters in an apparent attempt to force the protesters away. That same day, another car slammed into protesters in New York, as reported by the New York Post. These acts of violence are not new, nor are they an aberration; they are part of a broader attempt to forcibly stifle the Black Lives Matter movement, a movement that is fundamentally about change.
In turbulent times such as these, it can appear that no change is possible—that no amount of marching or activism will see an improvement, but to those who feel the darkness of nihilism creeping in, it is critical that we remember the past. Those who came before us have faced adversity and, in many cases, have triumphed. By focusing on the work of those who came before, we can gain the strength not only to see past the hatred, but also to see the self-assured strength that comes with a clear desire for change.
One such figure is Ella Baker. Baker, a life-long activist and civil rights worker, was a legend of organizing and political out reach. She worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, persuading him to fund the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and helped develop a student movement that operated at the behest of an entire generation of people. It was her dedication to organizing everyday people to fight for themselves that made her into a legend both in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and among SNCC workers. Unlike other leaders, Baker’s mentorship was less about telling people what to think. Instead, she would lend her advice to her fellow workers, with the likes of Stokely Carmichael, Jim Forman and Bob Moses. She was the epitome of democratization and civil disobedience. And SNCC, like many of the Black Lives Matter protesters now, faced violence. On June 12, 1963, SNCC worker and NAACP organizer Medgar Evers, was shot outside his home in Jackson, Mississippi, dying instantly. Evers, like many other SNCC workers of his day, was killed by a white supremacist, Byron De La Beckwith. His death prompted action against the white supremacy that ended his life, with the Civil Rights Act coming a year later.
I am not suggesting that we should hope for violence, nor am I suggesting that it is preferable to have anyone die for the cause; there has been enough death as it is. But knowing that violence against a movement can sometimes give it strength to fight on should give all activists the power to fight on. If change is to come, we must confront white supremacy at its core, make the violence an example of what we fight to destroy—the vile and oppressive hostility that judges an entire people on the basis of their skin, that condemns them for their fear of authority but fails to question that same authority for its malfeasance. Remember, we are not the first to march this path, nor will we be the last. Our purpose—the purpose of any good movement—is to set a new path—a better path for those come after us. It is a trying task, one that I imagine many are tired of walking, but if we are to truly live up to what this nation is meant to be, then we have to keep walking. Keep marching.
“Drivers Target Black Lives Matter Protesters in ‘horrifying’ Spate of Attacks.” The Guardian. Last modified July 9, 2020. Accessed September 26, 2020. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jul/09/black-lives-matter-drivers-target-protesters-spate-of-attacks.
“Ella Baker.” SNCC Digital Gateway, Historical Essay. Accessed September 26, 2020. https://snccdigital.org/people/ella-baker/.
Editors, History com. “Medgar Evers.” HISTORY. March 21, 2019. Accessed September 26, 2020. https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/medgar-evers.
“James Forman – SNCC Digital Gateway SNCC Digital Gateway.” Accessed September 26, 2020. https://snccdigital.org/people/james-forman/.
“Medgar Evers.” SNCC Digital Gateway, Historical Essay. Accessed September 26, 2020. https://snccdigital.org/people/medgar-evers/.
“Stokely Carmichael.” SNCC Digital Gateway, n.d. Accessed September 26, 2020. https://snccdigital.org/people/stokely-carmichael/.
Tutashinda, K., and D. C. “The Grassroots Political Philosophy of Ella Baker: Oakland, California Applicability.” Journal of Pan African Studies 3, no. 9 (July 2010): 25–42. http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=55528354&site=ehost-live