From Whence We Came: Life Lessons from the Civil Rights Movement

               black_woman_flag-e1309782977114Photo Credit: blogs.stockton.edu

I first learned about the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in college. I remember reading and looking at pictures of the freedom fighters captivated by the young people who helped to change a nation.  As I studied their faces, I imagined their lives. Like me, many of them were college-aged with goals, hopes and dreams.

Many of them were fist-generation college students who had overcame insurmountable barriers in a world that tried to stifle their aspirations and choke their dreams.  To quote Maya  Angelou, they were “the dream and the hope of the slave.” Thus, they had every right to be selfish, to think in terms of “me and mine.” Yet they chose to be a part of something much larger than themselves to achieve the goals of justice and equality. Their non-violent call for change did not offer any guarantees; there was no promise that the end result would align with the moral arc of justice. Nevertheless, they courageously risked their lives and dreams, and today we reap the benefits of those sacrifices.

SNCC
Photo: Lunch Counter Sit-In (highlighted in The Butler)

This past weekend, I had a flashback to that college memory as I sat watching Lee Daniel’s the Butler. With one hand tightly clutching my armrest, I cringed as scenes of brutal beatings and many other humiliations flashed across the screen.  Beating and humiliations they endured with dignity and strength of resolve. The gravity and importance of these acts of bravery both inspired and overwhelmed me, and I felt compelled to share this incredible part of history with everyone I know. I wanted the world to know about the courage, dignity, and altruism, because the history of “from whence we came” greatly informs our beliefs about not only where we are going, but where we CAN go and how much we CAN achieve.

If we are not careful, we can miss the key lessons that African-American history offers. There’s a rich history of courage, wisdom, resilience and strength that we can pull from. Far too many sacrificed for us to forget. Far too many bravely paved the way for us to dim our lights, talents and gifts in order to play it safe or make others comfortable. There is far too much dignity for us to undermine our potential and not go for our dreams. Tears streamed down my face as the movie ended with the symbolic election of President Barack Obama. Despite my tears, I had found a new vigor, a new perspective, a new appreciation, and a new resolve.

“Our predecessors were heroes,” I thought to myself, we owe them the duty to live our lives heroically. That much, we can do.

I Want to Hear From You:

  • What does it mean to you to live life heroically?
  • What ways do you plan to live your life heroically?