By: Megan Harris
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting an actual civil rights leader. Instinctively I knew I wanted to be present at this event, to be in the same room as someone who has endured the test of time in our country and still has the energy, desire, and spirit to even want to talk to this filled room. I’m eager to hear how Ambassador Young believes we can continue the progression for equality given the current situation in our country with civil rights.
If I were to say, “Civil Rights” to you, what comes to mind? It depends, right? I’d imagine one would hear a spectrum of commentary depending on who’s sitting on the other end of the table. If it were my father, I can envision him kicked back in his recliner, shaking his head side to side, eyes closed with a smirk on his face saying, “Oh, boy”, reminiscing on his experiences. Despite the humor, the loaded silence, (lack of words) still conveys a message of hurt, patience, and toughness from a boy who grew up in Vidalia, GA to be the first in his family to go to college (Morris Brown) in the ’60s. This is a hallmark reaction of the silent generation…versus Gen X, Millennials, Generation Z, who are about 2nd opinions, visual expression, let’s talk, and social media. In conversations with peers, civil rights has a much more expansive experience and meaning. Age, education, gender, race, religious background are a handful of variables participating in adding noise on the topic.
Ambassador Young discloses some experiences from his fight for civil rights and names a couple of unsung heroes that took important stances in upholding constitutional rights for the black community, such as Judge Frank Johnson and Judge Bryan Simpson. I had never heard of these gentlemen or had an inkling of what they endured as a byproduct of simply doing the right thing, this is where we fail in education with American history. After a few anecdotal stories, there is a segue to a ‘then and now’ address in the modern approach in the movement and organization for equality. In his opinion, Ambassador Young points out the difference to be the lack of organization, patience, and vetting. He also points out how the black church was the central hub in their movement, not only because it’s where most congregated, but also faith.
Moving forward we face the transition of fights for Civil Rights to fighting for “Silver Rights”. He references John Bryant’s definition of “SILVER RIGHTS-a concept that documents and validates the next phase of civil rights: the empowerment movement not only of American minorities but of majorities as well. That is, we transition beyond giving a fish, beyond teaching to fish, to owning the pond itself. (Bryant, 2005)” Racism, war, poverty, and the underemployment of women and minorities have cost us ~$21 trillion; and now our fight is much broader. Key sectors that affect all of us are under siege and it will take the mindset of environmental social governance as part of the “Economics of Freedom”. The ambassador provides many examples such as food supply and aquaponic research, exploring fuel from foods with duckweed, expanding the Savannah offshore port and having the taxes paid into the project tied to education funding, and us protecting crucial trade that comes down the Mississippi River and the infrastructure crisis with bridges.
Navigating the shift in the spectrum that’s happened, where do we go from here? As a community that believes in the core good values of humankind, we are charged with the responsibility of our brethren. As a modern civil servant walking in the footsteps of those before me in today’s global environment I am inspired to be a part of the solution, starting in my own backyard.
“Where you stand depends on where you sit.” -Miles’ Law