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Intergenerational discussion aims to move ‘struggle to the next level’

11th March 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Carrie Mills and Saybin Roberson
Contributing Writers

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – The Howard University School of Communications’ WHUT Studio D was filled with an eager audience, ready to hash out ways to move America forward. It was the highly anticipated televised panel discussion: “Black History Live at the School of C: Face to Face with the Power, the Promise-the Progress?”

Since the days of slavery to the present, Black people have made huge steps of progress toward racial, economic, and social equality. But, the question at this multi-generational forum was how much farther America must go to reach its promise of freedom and justice for all – and how can young people help with this cause.

“We prayed for a generation to be articulate. We prayed for a generation to be creative. We prayed for a generation to push the envelope with militancy, not just with language, lyrics, and videos; but with heart and soul to take the struggle to the next level,” said Dr. Benjamin Chavis, former NAACP executive director and member of the recently exonerated Wilmington Ten. “In fact, we are one people. We are one village…Everybody says it takes a village to raise a child. The problem is not the child, it’s the village,” he said. “We need to raise the village if we expect it to raise a child.”

The discussion, organized by the 69-year-old Washington, D.C.-based Capital Press Club, featured civil rights activists, student and professional journalists as well as a studio audience from various Howard Schools, including the School of Communications, casually called the “School of C.” The activists also included Malcolm X associate A. Peter Bailey, NAFEO President Dr. Lezli Baskerville, economist Dr. Julianne Malveaux, and Baltimore Pastor Jamal-Harrison Bryant, founder of the Empowerment Movement.

“How do we move from the gleam to the Marvelous light?” asked Capital Press Club President Hazel Trice Edney, using the words of the Black National Anthem to transition into the discussion.

Pastor Jamal-Harrison Bryant compared the younger generation to a model car—a group with the tools to succeed, but no agenda, urgency or motor.

“We have the model of success, but when you pop open the hood there is nothing mobilizing us,” Bryant said to a cheering audience. Calling for the younger generation to take back the model, he declared, “We have allowed every other community to take our model.”

A passionate Malveaux stressed the need to support each other economically; especially Black businesses. “The issue in 2013 is how we allow people to denigrate us, to make us small as Black people.”

Bailey believes Blacks are largely not supportive of Black-owned businesses because of the psychological conditioning through oppression. He said if a white business and a Black business were placed side by side, the automatic assumption is that the white store had better products.

“We are not poor, we are broke. We are involved in psychological warfare and we don’t even realize it,” he exclaimed.

Each panelist pointing out how important it is to maintain the Black education found in historically Black colleges.

Dr. Baskerville, president and CEO of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher education (NAFEO), encouraged the students to “push back against setback.” She asked for 500 Howard University students to go to Capitol Hill and help protest the disproportionate dispersal of public money spent on predominantly white institutions and HBCUs.

Becoming active on issues – such as educational funding – that are important to people of all generations was one resolution to pulling people together from all walks of life.

Chavis, now co-chair of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, reflected on how he chose to stay engaged with the current generation through his Hip-Hop Action Network and his knowledge of how well young people communicate and learn from one another. “Young people share content very well with each other, now it’s just a matter of the content that is being shared.”

The youth vote in the election of President Barack Obama can be viewed as one of those movements that youth shared with each other. The problem now is that they haven’t taken it any further, said Bryant.

Some believe that since the election and re-election of a Black president that the fight for equality is over, but they couldn’t be more wrong. The Pastor referred to a Bible scripture to make his point: “To whom much is given, much is required so what do we require of the President?”

With the killing of Trayvon Martin, the voting rights act once again before the Supreme Court, unequal educational funding and other issues that clearly show racial inequities, participants concluded that the Civil Rights Movement must be rejuvenated and continued.

“Every time we make progress, there is a reaction to our progress,” said Chavis. “If we are going to make some progress we better make it now; not later, now.”

Indicating that youth are aware of their heritage and the struggle to open doors for them, moderator Ray Baker, a Howard Alum and radio talk show host ended with his mantra, a Yoruba proverb: “If we stand tall, then we stand on the backs of those that came before us.”

Writer Jacqueline Williams also contributed to this story.

This article originally published in the March 11, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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