I applaud the Haddonfield Memorial High School class of 2022 in their stance for racial justice through the support of Black Lives Matter Philly led by the Movement Alliance Project (MAP), a well-respected 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Furthermore, I am inspired by previous letters to the editor, from them and their classmates, which were published in the Haddonfield Sun’s Nov. 25 issue.
However, I am not surprised to see young people lead. History teaches us that social change has always involved young leaders determined to create a just society. I grew up in North Carolina, surrounded by civil rights-era giants and many of them got their start as teenagers. For example, in 1961, four seventeen year-old African American freshmen from North Carolina A&T State University (my alma mater) staged a sit-in at a local Woolworth’s lunch counter. Their protest sparked college student-led sit-ins throughout the South, yielding changes at local businesses within five months (Huaman, 2010).
Similarly, I am not surprised at the swift resistance expressed by some Haddonfield parents and students. A Gallup Poll in 1963 revealed that 60 percent of Americans didn’t support the March on Washington (Roper Center, 2014), where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his, “I Have A Dream”speech. There were several polls like this during the 1960s that produced similar results and when the data were disaggregated by race, it indicated that the majority of those in opposition were white.
The Black Lives Matter movement, now known as the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), is a growing, decentralized, and multi-racial effort that seeks to end the systemic racial and intersectional oppression that has existed in our economic, education, and criminal justice system for centuries. M4BL shuns the traditional, hierarchical structures. Instead of a singular leader, there are many leaders and leadership organizations like MAP. This allows for a variety of thoughts, ideas, and approaches to establishing lasting systemic change.
To the Class of 2022, take heart in knowing you are in great historical company. The opposition will always be there to critique your choices, tactics, style, message, and your agenda. Just remember that you are marching toward the right side of history. You will not only raise money for a worthy cause, but ultimately you will save lives. I thank you!