Professor: Youth hold power to create change

Published 10:20 am Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Some eighth graders at Warren Central Junior High School were challenged to think of their place in society by looking at history.

Daphne Chamberlain-Wilson, department chair and assistant professor of history at Tougaloo College, spoke to Colby Fisher’s fifth period English class in the library of the school Monday about the Civil Rights Movement and challenged them to think about the power youth hold to create change.

“It’s doesn’t have to be adults who can impact that change. Even young people have a role to play in society,” Chamberlain-Wilson said.

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Chamberlain-Wilson let the students know how important middle school to college-aged students were to the Civil Rights Movement citing the Children’s Crusade and the integration of schools.

“It seems natural for this particular age groups, to share with them how young people get involved in social movements,” Chamberlin-Wilson said.

She taught the children about six year old Ruby Bridges who integrated into the public school in New Orleans, Claudette Colvin who refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus months before Rosa Parks, Tougaloo College students who staged a read-in to integrate the public library in Jackson and Ella Baker who helped form the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee because the potential she saw in the youth. She even related events of the past with events of today by comparing the fight for equal education during Civil Rights with last year’s Initiative 42.

“I think young people feel like they don’t have a voice and just to know that even during one of the most turbulent times in American history young people were clearly aware of what was going on in the world that they were living in and of course they were asking questions of that world and they had to make a space where their voices could be heard,” Chamberlain-Wilson said.

The students were asked to define freedom in their own words. The presentation ended with the question, “Would you have joined the march?” Students Steven Hemphill, Damarius Chandler and Andrew Vaughan were all inspired by the words they heard Monday.

Chandler was moved to value the things that are often taken for granted like shoes, a bed, an education and jobs. He said he is glad he has these things that many have struggled to obtain. He said he learned about how African American’s were treated badly but stood up for their freedom.

“It inspired me to do better and appreciate everything that I have now,” Chandler said.

Chandler and Vaughan discussed the damaging quality of stereotypes and how they can impact society’s view of minorities.

“I have a dream that one day people will all be treated equally and nobody’s going to be scared to go anywhere,” Vaughan said. “They won’t have the fear that they’re going to be made fun of for what they’re wearing or how they talk.”

Hemphill wished that people at the school and in the world would stop judging others and accept people for who they are. He said he would make sacrifices to make sure everyone was treated equally.

“I have a dream that I can change the world one day,” Hemphill said. “I’m going to take all my chances out there to impact the world.”

The class went on a field trip Friday to visit Chamberlin-Wright at Tougaloo College and meet Floncie Brown Wright, veteran civil rights activist, and Michael Williams, author of the first Medgar Evers biography, as well as visit the Medgar Evers Home.