The passing of Coretta Scott King hit me harder than I thought it would.
The news shocked me at first. It was one of those “wow” moments, but I was doing fairly well until I went to the commemoration event put on by Black Student Alliance at The Rock. As all the various faculty, staff, and students spoke, tears came to my eyes, and my emotions ran high. The overwhelming feeling was just plain sadness. This amazing woman is no longer a part of our world. I reflected on Rosa Parks, another great Civil Rights activist recently deceased, and I realized that I had not given myself the time nor the space to adequately grieve for her. A generation is dying, one by one, and they are MY people. They fought for MY rights.
Many of the speakers talked about how it’s “our turn” now, how the torch is being passed on to our generation. In light of Black History Month, I believe those comments are particularly relevant. Many people complain about the fact that Black History Month is not only in the shortest month of the year, but it is also shared with Chicano History Month. While these arguments are completely valid, it’s important that we do not let them get in the way of the heart of the matter — that is, celebrating our history, and looking towards our future.
The generation of youth today is in a particularly unique position. Our parents were alive for the Civil Rights Movement. They marched with King, Malcolm X, and Parks. They were physically present to hear the famous speeches. They directly experienced the blunt and outward racism. They were THERE, and we can only experience it through stories and textbooks. We do not experience racism as they did. The racism and discrimination we experience is much more subtle and internal. It’s more difficult to see, which leads some people to believe it’s not there. This, along with our generation’s detachment from the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, serves to produce a general tone of apathy and lack of concern among the youth of society. Unfortunately, this apathy comes at a very crucial time in our history.
Now, more than ever, it is absolutely imperative that our people come together to fight against the dangerous, subtle racism that plagues our government, business sector and communities. This is not to say that a new Civil Rights leader must emerge to lead us “to the Promised Land,” so to speak – but quite the contrary, in fact. I heard a great metaphor from a woman on CNN speaking about Coretta Scott King’s funeral. To paraphrase, she said, back in the day, the movement was more of a \”soloist\” effort. You had so-called soloists like Dr. King and Malcolm X who brought the blatant racism and prejudice to the forefront of politics. And now, it’s the “choir’s” turn to take over. We have to ALL work together to eradicate the internal, subtle racism in our society. One soloist is not going to do the job—the entire choir is needed.
You and I are both members of the choir, and now is our turn to take over for the soloists who have left us. We have to keep the song going — it’s not over.

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