Comparing and contrasting Black Lives Matter and the Civil Rights Movement

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CHICAGO —  Black people fighting for social and economic change has been an on-going battle.

And those leading the charge today are no less timid.

For Dr. Carol Adams, activism is in her blood,  by the tender age of 16, she was the president of the Louisville, Kentucky branch of core, the Congress on racial equality, a student-led Civil Rights group.

She proudly remembers her first stand-in at a local department store that allowed blacks to shop but not eat in its restaurant.

“We had been instructed very carefully what to do, and you stand quietly and you have one spokesperson, and only one person was to talk, if they got arrested you knew who wa people people speaking next and next and next, it was very disciplined and if you didn’t participate in the training, you could not participate in the demonstration, ever,” recalled Dr. Carol Adams.

It’s the same tactics used today by young black organizers.

“We have a membership base, we have a membership intake process, our members pay dues because we believe that in order to build power to change and create the world that we want to live in we have to have organized people and organized money,” says Charlene Carruthers, National Director of Black Youth Project 100, BYP 100 for short.

It’s one of a handful of black youth organizations in the Chicago area that are a part of the Black Lives Matter movement.

It was formed in July of 2013, shortly after the not-guilty verdict in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman.

BYP 100 is a lot like SNCC, the Student Nonviolence Coordinating Committee from the 60s that gave the younger generation a voice.

“We know that young people have a political analysis, that young people are disproportionately impacted by systems of mass incarceration and by police violence by our at best broken economy,” says Carruthers.

Reverend Dr. Otis Moss III is a product of the Civil Rights movement.  His father –Rev. Dr. Otis Moss Jr. – seen on the far right – was an activist and a close personal friend of rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.

As pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago’s Washington Heights community, the younger moss is helping to preparing the next generation of activists.

“Every generation must mark out its territory and should have the right to disagree with their elders,” says Dr. Moss.

Rev. Moss points out young people and the church have always been on the front lines of the freedom movement, fighting to end segregation, to have open housing, and equal access to a quality education.

But unlike the Civil Rights movement of old… where men were in the driver’s seat…  the Black Lives Matter movement has many drivers.

Another change: social media. It has replace phone trees and flyers when it comes to spreading the word.

As an advisor to some of the new school activists, Dr. Adams says she realizes abolishing segregation and winning the right to vote back in the 60s were only temporary victories.

“Ironically many of the vocal young black leaders of the 60s and 70s who fought against the so-called system went on to become today’s black political leaders, Bobby Rush of the Black Panthers and John Lewis of SNCC are now congressman.

Dr. Carol Adams now sits on the Chicago Police Board which leaves many to wonder if the young black activists of today will be our leaders of tomorrow.


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