African American History Month Oratorical Contest
Below you will find essays by two scholars, Courtney Smith and Amelia Henderson, for the African American History Month Oratorical Contest.
Because of Them, We Can, and I Will!!!
By Courtney Smith
A couple of years ago my family took a vacation to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I was so excited. I quickly packed my suitcase. Swimsuit…check, Sunglasses…check. As we traveled the highways going through different states, all I could think about was the warm beaches, amusement parks, and good food that was coming my way. Whenever we needed a rest, we stopped. When we were hungry, we stopped to eat at one of the many different restaurants along our route. During one of our stops, my father told me that not too long ago, black people could not just stop at any restaurant and expect to be served, stay at any hotel, or even enjoy the beach. My dad said, until the late nineteen sixties Myrtle Beach was a segregated area that black people were not allowed to go. In fact, Black people were not allowed to travel after the sun went down in many places in the South. At that moment, I realized that as a young African American woman, I have a lot of things to be thankful for and that I also take a lot of things for granted. I began to not only think about how much has changed for black people since those days of segregation, but I also began to think about how that change has happened. So instead of using my phone to look at memes and music videos, I spent the rest of the trip learning about the civil rights movement.
Let me tell you a little bit about what I learned. Did you know my family and I had the freedom to eat at any restaurant because of four brave students from North Carolina A&T University who despite being spat on, called names, and facing arrest, refused to leave the Woolworth’s store lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina after being refused service? These college students, who were not much older than me, started the sit-in movement that would eventually lead to the integration of restaurants throughout the North and South.
I learned that change does not come without determination. Do you know who had determination? Rosa Parks had determination. By not giving up her seat and moving to the back of the bus she stood up for civil rights by sitting down. Rosa Parks, known as “The Mother of the Civil Rights Movement” started the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, and for 381 days the black people of Montgomery, Alabama showed the world they would rather walk than ride on segregated buses.
Do you know what else I learned? I learned that change does not come without justice. Do you know who had a sense of justice? Thurgood Marshall had a sense of justice. Through the power of his arguments, he took the Brown vs. The Board of Education case to the Supreme Court and put an end to legal segregation in public schools and separate but equal policies.
I also recently learned that change does not come without smarts and toughness. Do you know who is smart and tough? Stacey Abrams is smart and tough. A lawyer, politician, author, voting right activist, and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Stacey Abrams is the founder of the Fair Fight Action organization that works to end voter suppression. In 2018, after becoming the first African-American female nominee for governor in the United States and losing a close election for governor of Georgia, she could have felt sorry for herself. But instead of backing down, Stacy Abrams got to work! She organized, raised money, and started a political movement that registered over 300,000 new voters and brought major political change not only to her home state of Georgia, but the entire country.
While the fight for equal rights for African Americans is not over, I believe I have a bright future and a path forward, because of the strength, sacrifice, and determination of the many people who came before me in the struggle for civil rights in America. A strong foundation has been laid and thanks to my parents who support me, and my ACS teachers who educate me, when it is my turn to continue the fight for justice and equality, I will be ready. Of course, my fight will not be possible without our Lord and Savior.
Philippians 4:13 tells me – I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. So Because of HIM, And Because of Them, We can and I certainly, most definitely, positively, Will too!!!
By Amelia Henderson
What is the point of having power if you are afraid to start to change? Youth Leaders can bring awareness to this issue. Throughout the years, Youth leaders and students have always been the ones to spark change in their communities. From the civil rights movement to present-day Black Lives Matter, students have been the ones to inflict change for their environments. Three ways Youth Leaders can use their power of influence to make a change is;
Youth Leaders can bring awareness to the issue, Youth Leaders can make websites and use social media outlets to reach out to people. Finally, Youth Leaders can protest and hold rallies to spark change. Youth Leaders can bring awareness to their issues. Most people do not realize all the problems and issues that happen. By bringing awareness to the issue can help other people join your cause and make a difference. One way to bring awareness to an issue is to protest. An example of Youth Leaders sparking change by protesting is in 1960 during the Sit-Ins. Students would sit at tables that were for white Americans only, African American students and Youth Leaders did this to gain the same rights as White Americans. Another Example of students using their power of leadership is, During the Civil Rights Movement students would be the ones to go to marches for their parents. If the parents went to the marches they would lose their jobs.
In society, we now have the pleasure of having the internet. The internet is an amazing source of communication worldwide and another way to bring awareness to an issue. An example of Youth Leaders using websites and social media to communicate and to spark a difference is Teens 4 equality. Teens 4 equality is a group of girls who used Social Media to schedule rallies and protests for Black Lives Matter. This group is one of the many groups in today’s society that utilize the internet as a source of change.
By bringing awareness, protesting, and using the internet Youth Leaders can help achieve national and local sustainable change. If we learn and take ideas from the past we can make a brighter future. “Change means that what was before wasn’t perfect. People want things to be better.” – Esther Dyson.