Friday, December 30, 2011

Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee events at Princeton

Charlie Cobb, Courtland Cox, Ivanhoe Donaldson, Eddie Glaude, Bob Moses, and Imani Perry, Larry Rubin, December 15, 2011, Princeton University  Photos: copyright Chika Okeke-Agulu
"Hands on the Freedom Plow", December 6, 2011, Princeton University

Terra Hunter, Judy Richardson, Dorothy Zellner, Martha Prescod Noonan, Betty Robinson, Janet Moses

Princeton students during the Q/A, December 6, 2011

Dr. Janet Moses

Dr. Janet Moses and Prof Imani Perry

Professor Terra Hunter, moderator

On December 15, The Center for African American Studies, Princeton University hosted a symposium by leading members of the historic Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the group of young, black and white men and women who, risking everything, went to the racial hot zones in Southern United States in the 1960s to participate in the movement that led to the desegregation of the South. These visionaries, these youths, many of them teenagers at the time, imagined a different country, and they worked for it, despite the threats to their lives, and the fears with which they lived daily. If they helped the Civil Rights movement succeed, it must be because of their grass roots mobilization--their "ground game", as the politicos would say--without which the endeavors of the "stars" of the age, might have come to naught. And if the present-day, somewhat inchoate "Occupy Movement" has one lesson to learn from SNCC, it is that they can camp as much as they wish in the gardens and parks of the cities and suburbs; but if they cannot go to the masses with their message and convince them of its justness and necessity, their effort will bear no edible or meaningful fruit.
What was remarkable, to me, was how the testimonies of these men echoed with amazing fidelity those of the SNCC women who had only a week before--on December 6, also at Princeton (at the presentation of their award-winning book Hands on the Freedom Plow)--made equally powerful presentations about their own experiences. For both the men and women, fear about their own personal safety was overwhelmed and numbed by the dread of what their fellow (black) citizens endured in the South--racial terrors and oppressions that had no place in their version of the American dream.And while not every one of them believed in the philosophy of non-violence, the decision to join SNCC meant that they all kept to the practice of non-violence, seeing in it a powerful weapon against a vastly more violent "enemy", the racist individuals, communities and state governments. Ah, the discipline, the courage. And they were young!

Imani Perry and Larry Rubin

Ivanhoe Donaldson and Eddie Glaude

Charlie Cobb

Courtland Cox, Ivanhoe Donaldson

Cornell West during the Q/A

Panelists with some members of audience after the conversation

Courtland Cox, Ivanhoe Donaldson
I learned so much listening to these men and women about the Civil Rights movement, and although I had to go watch again the monumental Eyes on the Prize documentary, nothing compared to the two winter evenings when I, as a student, listened to my elders speak of a time when the youths of America--not many of them, mind you--saved this country from the festering canker of its own sordid history. But as they all agreed, despite all that they and their mates in the Civil Rights Movement achieved, their work remains, alas, uncompleted. Just look at America today. 

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