I had the pleasure of hearing Judy Richardson and Janet Jemmott Moses speak at the Museum of African American History in Boston. They contributed to a book of first-hand accounts of the SNCC women that worked in the south setting up Freedom Schools and registering Black voters during the 1960s.
The Ideologue: I'm from Chicago; my grandparents are from Mound Bayou, Mississippi. When I first started talking to my grandparents about the past, they told me all these issues are passed down. I'm a Black Midwesterner with Southern roots in New England. Folks keep on telling me that technology levels playing fields, that somehow because we aren't in the same physical location we were half a century ago that we'd 'arrived'; that somehow [to allude to Richard Wright's '12 million black voices'] "we'd managed to shake off three hundred years of fear in three hours".
How can I convince folks without all that context that there are still things to fight for?
Judy Richardson / Janet Jemmot Moses [interspersed]: "We saw the world change. It was wonderful for us because we knew that what we were doing would have an effect. It's gotten much harder - and I often hear 'Oh no, it was much harder back then, with the dogs and [constant threat of violence]', but I'd say it's hard now because it's much more undercover.
A couple people is all it takes. How many people did we have in our camp - fifty? sixty? And what we had coming out of that was changing the [then-current] structure of a country, taking Jim Crow out of the Mississippi Delta. We couldn't have predicted that Barack Obama would be president - we didn't think it was possible. We were working to protect our basic rights.
But know this - Barack Obama could never have been president had we not done the necessary work to really enfranchise the working Black people of the Delta (and others like them all over the country). So, the Women's Movement, the Disabilities Act, the Voting Rights Act propelled major, major change in this country - and so you should not be discouraged. How do we start making the constitution something that includes us all, works for us all, protects us all?
Take your passions - take your passions and run your movement. Others will see and be inspired to move with you. You can't talk people outta their comfort zone - it doesn't have to be a national movement. See, back then, we weren't focusing on what was -
...we were focusing on what should be.