Diane Nash, the keynote speaker at the annual luncheon coordinated by the Greater Lansing Area Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Commission.
By Howard T. Spence
In the last edition of The New Citizens Press, an article entitled “2017 - A Year of Activism, Resistance and Anger” was printed. It highlighted the many events of last year, which brought residents – at both the national and local level – out into the streets as advocates and protesters and counter-protesters seeking change.
For the most part, Americans are seeking definition of the direction in which our country is heading and what will be our real fundamental "American" values be. The coming year of 2018 is likely to reveal a continuation or possibly even an acceleration of the enthusiasm and concern of Americans about issues which will determine the very future and direction of our country.
Events in just the past few weeks show that the earlier suggestion of continued and even accelerating activism is likely to be fulfilled. In just the past few weeks, millions of Americans have attended memorials, rallies, and gatherings addressing a need for continued healing of racial and ethnic tensions in our country, as well as, increased gender and sexual equality in many forms and aspects. People have called out in loud voices for political actions designed to help Americans take back control of "our government" and “our way of life.”
This area has been a microcosm of what has been going on at the national level. On January 15, 2018, almost 1,500 people gathered at the Lansing Center celebrate the 33rd Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Luncheon and the dream that Dr. King and many of the civil rights leaders in our country have advocated and even died for over the past half-century. Each year the Greater Lansing area luncheon is a celebration and among one of the largest holiday programs in the nation. This year the celebration was sold out as many of the residents came together to encourage each other and to discuss where we as a people go from this point. The “dream” of Dr. King and so many other Americans has not yet been achieved.
The keynote speaker at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Luncheon was Ms. Diane Nash. She was one of the original and preeminent advocates for equality and nonviolent resistance during the formative years of the American civil rights movement. In Nashville, Tennessee, as a 22-year-old college student, she and other colleagues who supported non-violent resistance participated in “freedom rides” throughout the South. Those Freedom Riders were seeking improvement in the lives of millions of Americans who were oppressed and discriminated against because of racism, poverty, and hatred. Nash and many of her Freedom Rider colleagues faced threats of death. Some of those Freedom Riders and advocates for nonviolent resistance were even killed because of their attempts to change America to be a better place.
Ms. Nash spoke about the need to persevere, to resist, to call out oppression and hatred and racism even today as it emanates from every corner of our country including the halls of government in Washington DC.
Ms. Nash explained how some of the basic nonviolent principles of resistance and protest, which led to civil rights gains for so many during the past century, remain even more relevant today. She gave pointers and suggestions and a practical action plan for people in 2018 to resist regressive changes. She lamented that if we did not resist, it would take America back to a time when it was not "great" for many people. A video of her presentation will be published by The Greater Lansing Holiday Commission and available online soon.
Left: Lysne Beckwith Tait, Co-Director of Helping Women Period at the Women’s March at Michigan State’s Capitol.
Another movement regarding social justice occurred on January 21, 2018, as thousands rallied at the state Capitol as a part of the 2018 National Women's March to encourage women and those who support women and their programs. The march participants raised protests and calls to resist the changes that keep women from achieving their full potential. The hundreds of messages which those protesters and resisters showed on their signs were consistent with the theme of a need for change, respect for all Americans regardless of race or gender, and the need for social justice and equity.
This year, 2018, is an off-year election year. Already millions of people nationwide and thousands of people locally are excited about using both the conventional political process and community activism and resistance to bring about change which they think is appropriate and necessary in the country and the mid-Michigan area in particular.