By LaKeshia N. Myers
“Revolution is about the need to revolve political, economic, and social justice and power back into the hands of the people, preferably through legislation and policies that make human sense. That’s what revolution is about.”
~Bobby Seale, Founder Black Panther Party
Within every iteration of the civil rights movement (yes, there has been more than one) there emerges a new group of young, dynamic, charismatic and innovative activists. Activism, especially in the Black community is very important. It is the most intimate role in which one can be engaged in the movement for equity. Throughout our history it has been young people that have usually taken the mantel of activism and been the catalyst for change. Individuals like John Lewis, Diane Nash, Fred Hampton, Angela Davis and Stokely Carmichael all began their careers as activists. Most were college students who demanded justice in their local communities—challenging the status quo, bucking the system and demanding change at every level.
In my observation of many of my revolutionary heroes, one thing has remained constant: they each evolved. They were able to transition seamlessly from protesting on foot in the street to training the next generation of activists— in classrooms, by public speaking or in politics. Whether this was by choice or by happenstance, what I have learned is this: activism does not come with a retirement plan. These activists had to chart their own paths for longevity.
As a xennial politician, and one that is admittedly an old soul, I learned at the knee of my elders. I believe in breaking down institutions from the inside out—this applies to my profession as an educator, my political affiliation and even my union membership. So, some may argue that I have an “old school” way of thinking. I view it as understanding that evolution is a process; and also understanding that as a people, African Americans have only been legally unencumbered (aka free-ish) since 1968. Fifty-two years of “freedom” does not erase the damage of 246 years of chattel slavery and 103 years of legal subjugation.
I appreciate my brothers and sisters that have taken up the mantel for to march daily for Black Lives. The promise and dedication to march for at least 201 days is monumental. I know that the pressure the foot soldiers apply on the ground make the difference when my colleagues and I push for change inside the state capitol. Together, we have to embrace what our forebears did; learn the strategies, fully understand the systems that govern us and participate in the process, whether we like it or not.
Every one of us has a role to play. Some march, some write checks to fund the revolution, others write policies that bend the arc of justice. But together, we are one. Fred Hampton said, “We’re gonna have to do more than talk. We’re gonna have to do more than listen. We’re gonna have to do more than learn. We’re gonna have to start practicing and that’s very hard. We’re gonna have to start getting out there with the people and that’s difficult. Sometimes we think we’re better than the people so it’s gonna take a lot of hard work.” Let us always stay focused; all power to the people.