The year was 1970. The month was May. The day was the fourth. The state was Ohio. The country was the United States of America. The site was Kent Sate University.
The moment was when four white students were shot and killed by the Ohio National Guard. I was 17 years old. It was the first time in my life that I saw white students being injured and killed by the government. I knew about the Orangeburg Massacre in 1968 at South Carolina State University, where three black students were murdered. I was not surprised that the police would kill black people. Yet,the Kent State Massacre signaled a new level of government repression.
White students who were protesting the war in Vietnam and Cambodia were beginning to experience first-hand what black people had been experiencing, i.e. brutality at the hands of their own government. I remember watching news accounts of white students bleeding and crying out in disbelief, and of parents angrily protesting how their children were being treated on college campuses. I remember the famous Dick Gregory lecture at Kent State University when he correctly stated that America was turning on its own white youth.
As I remember the unfolding of history, the escalation of the war in Vietnam, the election and re-election of President Richard M. Nixon and the “Silent Majority”, I can not help but see the parallels of history today. Longevity gives one perspective. What we are experiencing today politically, I have seen before.
The “silent majority” rhetoric is now replaced with “make America great again.” We are at a moment in history when once again, we must challenge the direction that the nation is taking. Today’s struggle, like yesterday’s struggle, is about what kind of nation we want to become. I hear the war drums growing louder. I see the generals preparing for war. I know who will be sent to war and who will not. I know that unless we act, another Kent State is just around the corner.
However, there is something positive happening in our nation. I see a renewed activism. People all over the nation are mobilizing. Last weekend, 200,000 people marched in Washington, D.C. to protest the direction the nation is moving. There is a growing resistance movement building.
The Kent State and the Orangeburg massacre are stark reminders that our right to protest have been paid for with the blood of our youth. Every generation must produce its own leaders. Every generation must find its own voice. Every generation must pave the way for the generations to come. The activism that I see on the horizon and growing signals that a new day is dawning. Those who believed that we would be silenced are in a for a rude awakening.
Remember Kent State. Remember Orangeburg. Remember in November.
A Luta Continua!
Carl Snowden is a political and civil rights leader in Annapolis.
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