The civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s is but a distant folklore to youths today. But even though they did not live through it, many Lowcountry youths — including the College of Charleston Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and Jack and Jill of America — are finding their own ways to continue to honor Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy.
If you go
What: Youth Speaks Out When: 12:30 p.m. todayWhere: YWCA, 106 Coming St.Who: Sponsored by Jack & Jill of America Inc. Charleston Chapter and YWCA Greater Charleston Cost: Free More Info: Lunch will be served; 722-1644 or ywca-charlestonsc.orgWhat: “Remember the Name”When: 6 p.m. WednesdayWhere: Physicians Auditorium, College Way, College of CharlestonWho: Hosted by College of Charleston Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha; includes musical guests, spoken word performers and more Cost: Free
Today Jack and Jill will co-sponsor Youth Speaks Out with the YWCA. Students will divide into groups to discuss the past, present and future of civil rights.
Courtland Sutton, a senior at Academic Magnet High School and president of the Jack and Jill teen division, is leading the event.
She said listening to youths is important because “sometimes we have a different perspective and more of an open mind.”
Sutton said King’s work inspires her to strive for greatness and she is thankful for being “born into a society and not be restricted by it.” But she feels other young people don’t understand the significance of his work.
“People don’t understand why the holiday is important. As I’ve grown older, I understand it more. They made a way for people’s lives to be easier in the future,” Sutton said.
On Wednesday the College of Charleston Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, King’s fraternity, will host an event celebrating his life through art.
Chapter president Denzell Moton said people are not aware that King was very young when he made his impact on the world. Even Sutton said she never thought of King as being young because of his maturity and accomplishments.
“For somebody who is that young to achieve so much because of his intellect is admirable,” Moton said.
Chapter Dean of Membership Brandon Upson said people need to keep in mind that this holiday is not just for African Americans.
“King’s vision was to have an all-inclusive environment to love and operate as citizens freely. He was a champion for people — not just black people,” he said.
Chapter Secretary Xavier Bromell said it’s up to older generations to educate younger ones about King’s legacy and others agreed.
“They’re younger; they’re further removed. We talk about it, but they lived it,” Bromell said.
Upson said he remembers learning about the movement from his great-grandmother.
“They were leaving the field picking cotton to go to D.C. to march. People don’t tell those stories anymore,” he said.
“We read books in school, but my parents gave me a cultural perspective that I could never have gotten from a textbook,” Sutton said.
Chapter Treasurer James Vickers said he doesn’t think schools are doing enough to educate students about King.
“There may be one paragraph that says ‘this guy had a dream,’ but he did so much more than give a couple speeches,” he said.
Aaliyah French, a fifth-grader at James B. Edwards Elementary, and Joshua White, a seventh-grader at Charleston Progressive Academy, will be leading discussions at Youth Speaks Out. They both said they learned about racism and the civil rights movement from older relatives.
“People who are unappreciative need to hear these stories so they can be grateful for what they have today,” White said.
Aaliyah said young people should celebrate King because “you should be thankful and show respect to the people who fought for your rights.”
Sutton said she hopes future generations will look back and view her generation as a positive one. She said we can do this by “accepting people who are different.”
“I don’t want to be known as a generation where people say we didn’t treat others well,” she added.
And today, as many people watch the inauguration of President Barack Obama, Bromell said blacks should not stop fighting for equality just because we have a black president.
“It doesn’t end here. There’s always more we can do,” he said.
Reach Jade McDuffie at 937-5560.