Students discuss legacy of civil rights, student activism

Students discussed the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement and student activism at the latest R.E.A.L. Conversations event Monday.

The discussion, “Is the Civil Rights Movement Forgotten? Keeping Student Activism Alive,” encouraged open dialogue with the crowd of about 45 students at Eckles Library on the Mount Vernon campus. Guest speakers included Garland Vincent, a civil rights advocate, and Bianca Bonney, a representative from Youth Ventures, a program that encourages young people to found and lead organizations to improve their communities.

“(The Civil Rights Movement) is dead. We need to do less talking and more walking. We need to march like Martin Luther King Jr. did,” said Vincent, a board member of D.C. Learns and a civil rights advocate.

R.E.A.L. Conversations, which stands for relationships, ethnicity, activism and life, is meant to provide students with an opportunity to come together in an environment that promotes the discussion of issues regarding diversity and multiculturalism.

Grace Henry, a Student Activities Center assistant director, acted as a mediator for the R.E.A.L. Conversations event.

“The purpose of these discussions is to make sure that at least once a month, students are having these real conversations,” she said in opening the discussion.

The GW College Democrats, who were the lead sponsors of this event along with GW NAACP, said this conversation in particular was important to have.

“The conversation will give students the opportunity to explore the status of the (Civil Rights Movement) and where it will now lead America,” said Michael Weil, communications director of the College Democrats. “We hope that everyone who attends recognizes the continuing need to fight for the rights of all Americans and engage in our nation’s political discourse.”

SAC Student Coordinator John Muller said a sense of urgency and dedication is not prominent among students today.

“We have not struggled in the same way that the students of the 1960s and early 1970s did,” he said.

Others said they believed the movement isn’t dead; it has just changed shape.

“It is hard to get people to come together and not see everything as something that’s liberal or conservative,” junior Jackie Menditch said.

When the conversation moved to student activism, the majority in attendance agreed that there is not enough today.

“When you have 100 first priorities, you have no priorities,” freshman Solomon Steen said. “Students are being pulled into many different directions.”

The discussion covered student activism, setting priorities for change and lead to a brainstorming session for how to motivate students.

“I live in Thurston and it’s a total flock mentality there,” freshman Adam Zuckerman said. “We need to make it cool to go out and volunteer.”

Organizers said they were pleased with the turnout.

“It has been historically difficult to mobilize students for events on Mt. Vernon’s campus,” Muller said. “This evening’s topic was provocative so that the distance was not a factor as students want to participate in progressive campus programming wherever it is.”

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