“One day when the glory comes, it will be ours.
One day when the war is won, we will be sure.
– Common and John Legend, “Glory”- Selma Soundtrack (2014)
Today marks the 50th Anniversary of the Bloody Sunday March in Selma, Alabama. Yet many Millennials would not know about this annual march celebration had it not been for Common, John Legend and Ava DuVernay.
On that day a young John Lewis and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) along with countless others walked on the front lines of a march for voting rights. They marched because they had nothing else to lose. They marched because they were fed up. Losing your dignity every day has a way of forcing you to take action.
Aside from a committed few, today we pay lip service to our grievances yet continue to sit comfortably in our homes watching television, generally consuming, and praying it doesn’t come by here. Once again young people are taking the lead, full of fearless energy and sharp rhetoric. And we hope. We hope their efforts will create change.
Each of us knows someone who has experienced discrimination in this country. None of us are surprised by racist emails exposed at Sony or the Ferguson police department. Racism exists in the big corporate environment many of us call home and in the small town police district. But we don’t lose our dignity each day. Or at least we don’t believe we do.
Despite electing the first African-American president of the United States twice, Michelle Alexander informs us “no other country in the world imprisons so many of its racial or ethnic minorities.” In our nation’s capital, three out of four young black men can expect to serve time in prison.
African American CEOs of Fortune 500 companies in 2013 stood at six, 1.2%. Fortune 500 boards are made up of 6.8% African Americans, with 5.3% males and 1.5% females. (Richard L. Zweigenhaft, Guilford College)
This data suggests that African Americans incarcerated in the US may be targeted based on the color of their skin. If targeted in the same way, white incarcerations may be much higher. It also suggests that those of us who graduate from school and get that great corporate job, may never lead the corporation, direct its culture, or hire more diverse employees.
Even after the civil rights movement where African Americans were frequently incarcerated and killed at the hands of police officers directed to oppress and silence people of color, we still don’t have the number of African Americans killed in US police custody. And while a new report from the President’s Task Force on Community Policing calls for data to be provided by local police departments, it’s on us to see that it happens in our communities.
More than ever, we need advocates. Advocates for justice in our local communities must ensure we don’t lose the gains of the 50s and 60s Civil Rights movement and that we reshape and reclaim the Civil Rights movement of today. It’s not over. It will take young leaders who are fed up. Young leaders who have suffered so much indignity that there is nothing left to lose. Young leaders with the hope, strategy and conviction to see us through to our Glory. It’s our time.
Yours in the movement,
National Urban League Young Professional