The Fight for Equality: Then and Now

Updated: Feb. 12, 2021 at 7:46 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - We’re celebrating Black History Month with a look at the fight for equality then and now.

From Mid-Southerners who marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior in the 60, to those marching to fulfill his dream decades later.

David Acey, Sr. can practically recite Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech by heart.

“I have a dream one day that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” said David Acey, Sr., Civil Rights Activist

After all, he was there, a young man in his 20s on that hot August Day in 1963.

“He said go back to the South, go back and start with a new determination that one day we will be free,” said Acey.

During that time…Black Americans were fighting in support of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

“The Civil Rights Act does SOMETHING, but it doesn’t do enough,” said Dr. Noelle Trent – National Civil Rights Museum.

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Dr. Noelle Trent, Director of Interpretation, Collections and Education with the National Civil Rights Museum said young people in their teens and twenties were the driving force behind the Civil Rights Act.

“At 19 - 22 years old, these are young people who are willing to risk their lives for their freedoms,” Dr.Trent said.

Over 50 years later, despite the Civil Rights Act, Black Americans are still fighting for equal rights.

“I think the movement for Black lives is not about saying that Black Lives are better or superior to anyone else, but it’s saying guess what we’re here and the systems that have been in place for racism and white supremacy have desecrated us and devalued our lives and devalued our very being,” said Dr. Trent.

Theryn C. Bond, a local activist in Memphis, participated in several demonstrations like the I-40 bridge protest in 2017 that shut down the interstate in both directions for hours.

“I wanted to make my voice heard about issues that mattered not only to myself but also to those around me,” said Theryn C. Bond, Community Activist.

In the Summer of 2020, the language of the unheard was loud and clear after the world responded to racial injustice following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

“This summer it really helped me mature and grow into I feel like the person that I’m supposed to be,” said Jordan Dodson, student Activist.

Jordan Dodson is a student at the University of Memphis who marched to advocate for defunding the police in alliance with Black Lives Matter.

Dr. Trent said similar to the 50s and 60s, Black youth like Dodson is once again on the frontlines.

“A lot of people are quick to say that the students today don’t care, and they’re not like the students back in the 60s, but I actually think that they very much are,” Dr. Trent said.

“This past summer I was walking in a few actions and somehow I ended up organizing one of my own,” said Dodson. “It truly happened, it wasn’t planned at all, it’s just a lot of people agree with what I had to say and reached out to me and said, “when’s the next action?”

One major difference in the modern social justice movement is social media.

“Social media gives us the power to understand what’s happening in the moment and to say to people...this isn’t being made up, this is not a conspiracy, this is reality,” said Dr. Trent.

Acey said he watched the protests this summer with a full heart.

He said he’s encouraged by young people joining forces to fight for equal rights.

The movement has come a long way and these activists said there is still a long way to go in the fight for Freedom and Justice for All.

“You can kill the dreamer, but you can’t kill the dream,” said Acey.

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