On Sunday April 30 from 2-2:30 PM the Canton area YWCA led by Executive Director Brooke Denniston held a ¨Stand Against Racism¨ rally at Jones Park in Canton, IL. Please visit the links below for more information (Photo taken from YWCA logo)
*Below is a copy of Mr. Brewer´s speech he was able to share at the rally.
I would like to thank everyone for coming out this afternoon. I especially applaud our young people, I designed my words with our youth in mind. But regardless of age, your presence at this event demonstrates that you are an active participant in the stand against racism. No matter our age or personality style, we all have a role to play, I like to think my role is in education. To educate not only my students but myself on this word ¨RACISM¨ and what it means for us today. I want to share about recent experience in my history classroom that really illustrates what I´m learning.
The moral of this story I will share is that there is tremendous POWER IN THE ACTIONS OF ONE PERSON. A student recently joked with me saying history had no relevance in his life because it happened in the past; that’s why they call it history. Our lesson that day was about the Little Rock 9–how in 1957 9 courageous students overcame the forces of hate when they integrated Little Rock H.S. I told this student about my father who was born right outside of Little Rock in 1952. My Dad was a young southern kid but still remembers when this stuff went down. My father was born into a world whose very fabric was built on hate for ¨the other,¨ a world where his local government actively participated in upholding hate; congress crafted hateful legislation, agents of the law enforced it, courts defended it and churches moralized it.
But I’m thankful that my dad disengaged from the hate he grew up with; I’m thankful that he and my Mom taught their children to actively resist it. I shared with all my students that we can’t afford to make the mistake of distancing ourselves from RACISM. We are not 65 years removed from these stories, we are just 1 person away. Each of us has to think about RACISM and HATE in terms of our actions today, ¨the hate u give¨ or the love you show others everyday.–Especially those who our dominant culture perceives as ¨the other.¨ There is POWER in the actions of 1 person, and while you can’t control the actions of others you can control whether your response will be one that casts out seeds of hate or seeds of love. And to love someone means you will seek to understand their experience.
And concerning this POWER of one, I´d like to emphasize that throughout our history people have demonstrated that how old you are does not determine your level of participation in helping build a society based on love and compassion. I just mentioned the 9 high school kids in Little Rock back in 1957, but in Birmingham, AL 1963 a 7th grade girl named Gwendolyn Sanders helped organize a massive school walkout that became known as ¨The Children’s Crusade;¨ more than 600 children were arrested, some as young as 8 years old, an event that was instrumental in shaping the Civil Rights Act in 1964; You can’t tell me that young people don’t have POWER. To be an active participant in our stand against racism you don’t need an advanced degree or advanced age. You can participate NOW
But we don’t want you to just be active, we want you to be effective. And if you want to be effective you need to be INFORMED. Do you know what it means to be INFORMED? If you know your history, for instance, then you recognize that we are at a crucial time in the fight against hate. Many have gone before us doing this work and got us to this point and the baton is being passed on to a new generation. If I had more time I´d love to tell you about the time me and other area history teachers got to meet civil rights icon Amelia Boynton Robinson who was knocked unconscious at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama 1965. I met her when she was 101 years old, and let me tell you she knew that the fight to end hate in America was still going on!.
Let me ask How is your information diet? Do you consider the information that you consume on social media and other forms of digital entertainment. Do you know who the heroes are? Do you actively seek out the experiences others are sharing? You can’t be informed if you only consume things in culture and social media that numbs you to the experiences people are having. While I am proud of how engaged young people are today, I am also concerned by a passivity to social issues that mainstream culture tends to instill in people. And this is unfortunate because young people are inheriting so many things which require an informed citizenry to address..
There’s so much more I could say, but let me wrap this up by sharing one final quick story. It was my 1st year teaching and unbeknownst to me there was a great spitwad war happening while I was teaching. When the bell rang all the kids who fired off a spitwad left but one student remained, she was very quiet and did not take participate in the great spitwad war, but she stayed to help clean up. Most people never get to this level of understanding – but this student saw something that was not right and chose to take responsibility for it. This is a great analogy for justice and a great story that illustrates the quote on our t-shirts today, about how we understand privilege and how we perceive what is and isn’t our problems. Hate can be like these little spit wads that people fire off in the forms of disparaging humor or disparaging words. Will you have the courage to take responsibility for the seeds of hate and injustice you see around you?
Historian Howard Zinn says ¨You can’t remain neutral on a moving train.¨ We must understand that our silence is a statement about where you stand. If we’re passive about the injustices we see around us, then we risk building a society made up of hate rather than love and compassion. So with this in mind, I encourage you to STAND against racism in your communities, in your schools, in your places of work, in your homes. All of these spaces are only as good and as just as the people in them wish them to be. THE TIME TO STAND IS NOW. We can all be part of the generations that work together to end hate. Thank you!