Fueling a New Black Student Movement – GDN Specialby Mildred Robertson, Contributing Writer November 17, 2021
While the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s was ignited by luminaries like Martin Luther King, Jr., Fannie Lou Hammer, and Malcolm X, it was fueled by freedom fighters from across this nation’s college campuses. Young men and women from both the north and the south joined forces to oppose the abomination of segregation; sacrificing their black and white bodies to end that horrid system of oppression. Even though great strides have been made in the fight for justice since the 60s Civil Rights movement, recent politics has exposed the simmering racism that bubbles just below the surface of American society. During the latter part of the 20th Century many Whites succumbed to social pressure against overt racism and retreated to passive aggression. This resulted in a false appearance of decreasing racism in our nation. That perception was shattered during the Trump administration as he whipped White racial backlash into a frenzy.
This backlash requires a response. Peter Grear, Co-Publisher of Greater Diversity News (GDN), has proposed such a response. He and a group of socio-political activists have joined forces to articulate the current state of American racism and to motivate a new generation of Freedom Fighters to take up the fight.
It was a group of students from North Carolina A&T in Greensboro, who in February of 1960 began the sit-ins at the Woolworth counter that helped drive a youth movement that swept across this nation. These young people became a catalyst that helped sustain the momentum created by Dr. King and others as they sought justice and equality for Black people across this nation. Looking at the past as prologue, Grear and GDN suggests that a new student response is needed to address the resurgence of overt racist acts that permeate today’s social and economic landscape.
Grear recalls his days at Fayetteville State University (FSU) from 1962-66 where he was part of the original Black Student Movement. He participated in the sit-ins and protests that helped integrate Fayetteville, and worked to end segregation. Grear moved on to follow his career path, which in 1976 brought him back to North Carolina. He noted that a common complaint he heard among his contemporaries when he returned home was, that unlike their generation, Black students just weren’t voting.
Having made his mark as an attorney and publisher, he was recognized in 2017 with the NC Black Leadership award. While receiving that recognition, he realized that his work was not yet done. So, at a conference in Charlotte on October 14, 2017 Grear got together with political advocates and legislators long in the battle for equality in this state, to see whether they could determine why the current generation of students seemed to lack the passion for political change they themselves had experienced back in the 60s.
Their brainstorming resulted in a concept designed to reignite the power of young people, not only across North Carolina, but ultimately across the nation. The group agreed that, though the work they had done in the 60s was impactful, they had somehow failed to pass on that knowledge and sense of urgency to the generation that followed. Their strategy was to help build a model that could be used by young black men and women to re-engage in the Civil Rights movement in a way as impactful as that we experienced in the 60s. Thus was born, The New Black Student Movement (NBSM).
The vision included the mobilization of Black Greek Letter organizations, Historically Black College and University (HBCU) alumni associations and the NAACP to systematically promote civic engagement and increased voter participation on college campuses across the state, and eventually, the nation. The group opined that if the “Divine 9” were to lead the way, other students would follow.
Among the organizers were Congressman, G.K. Butterfield, and four former Chairpersons of the North Carolina Black Leadership Caucus, (NCBLC) Cornell Robinson, Dr. E. Lavonia Allison former Rep. Larry Hall, and Peter Grear.
Currently, The NBSM is in its infancy as volunteers gather to hammer out the model which will be used to proliferate the movement across the state. The idea is to provide a prototype that can be used on any college campus to organize and mobilize student activists. That includes Black students attending predominantly White colleges and universities (PWI).
A soft launch of the concept occurred back in 2019 when “A Call to Colors” conference was held. The group, for the past 2 years, has worked to create and fine-tune the five models for civic engagement for HBCU, Greek Letter and non-profit organizations. The NBSM was the name recently adopted for the student model.
The initiative is poised to implement a core part of the NBSM model where students can volunteer to work on the project through non-profit organizations focused on civic engagement. The goal is to volunteer 8, 16, 24 or more hours per election cycle. The student group has volunteer advisors and are working to fine-tune the model. “The volunteer group is constructing goals and objectives to develop a roadmap accessible to any student organization that wishes to engage,” Grear says. The group hopes to work with HBCU student government associations and institutionalize the knowledge so that it is passed down to subsequent generations of leaders.
Grear also points to the need for coordination with existing organizations to create a strong model that can become self-sustaining. “It is within the framework of establishing HBCU-wide administrative initiatives that it becomes imperative to establish nonpartisan groups such as the NAACP to organize and help develop organizational skills for students,” he says.
That is the goal; to spur the development of next-generation leadership among Black students and other young people across, first North Carolina, and ultimately, nationwide. “Through their mobilization we can increase the youth vote and have a substantial impact on voting outcomes across this country; an impact just as far-reaching as that of the Freedom Fighters of the 60s,” Grear says.
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Mildred Robertson is a public relations consultant and blogger. To read more from this author, go to https://mdr-concepts.blogspot.com