On Wednesday, January 27 at 7 p.m, silence settled upon the audience in the Chapel pews as Leela MadhavaRau, Associate Dean for Campus Diversity and Inclusion introduced civil rights leader, Diane Nash.
Nash is one of the founding members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) which allowed black youth the opportunity to take on an active role in the Civil Rights Movement. Nash’s contributions to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s includes staging sit-ins to integrate lunch counters, organizing Freedom Rides, working closely with Martin Luther King, Jr. to desegregate public transportation, and assisting with the Selma Voting Rights Campaign of 1965. In addition, she is a recipient of the 2008 National Freedom Award.
Nash’s time on stage consisted of her narrative regarding what the movement means to her, her role in the movement, and sources of inspiration she taps into to bring about positive change.
“The movement of the ‘60s was not Martin’s movement,” Nash said. “Martin was not the leader; he was the spokesperson. It was the people’s movement.”
Nash went on to explain that it was the people who played a role in the perpetuation of oppression and liberation.
“Oppression always requires cooperation of the oppressed. Oppressive systems are a partnership between the oppressed and the oppressor.” Nash said.
While people contributed to oppression by being passive, Nash reminded the audience that self growth contributes to change.
“The only person you can change is yourself and when you change, the world has to fit up into the new you,” Nash said.
The civil rights icon is a believer in Gandhi’s teachings and him having “invented a way to wage war using energy produced by love instead of energy produced by violence.” During her speech, it was discussed that violence is counterproductive.
“People are never the enemy,” Nash said. “Unjust political systems, economic systems, attitudes, racism, sexism, ignorance, and emotional and mental illness [are the enemy]”.
As Nash discussed, nonviolence itself is not enough. She stated that utilizing the power of love toward others, agapic energy, is another key piece in social activism. She uses this energy to continue to her ventures as a social activist in areas such as education and fair housing advocacy. Nash calls for today’s youth to carry the torch of activism with her proclamation of one of the motivations activists had during the 1960’s.
“Freedom is a constant, never ending struggle every individual and every generation, every individual and every generation, faces its own challenges,” Nash said. “The question is: will you step up?”
[Image courtesy of Sky Ung, Redlands Bulldog photographer]