When we view young people like Asean Johnson, shouting, crying out and having their voice heard in the name of opposition, it does two things. It encourages us all to remember that the next generation of black youth can speak for themselves, and it also reminds us that we as black people are all connected. Regardless if the social issue revolves around school closings in Chicago, gun violence around the country, or poverty that plagues our neighborhoods, we cannot forget that these issues will impact us all. We all must wrestle with our “linked-fate,” whether we like it or not.
This is not a new concept. On February 1st, 1960 four young black men got together and decided to organize. The manifestation of their mobilization was seen by the public, as these four men decided to hold a sit-in at a lunch counter in North Carolina. Fifty-One years, three months, and eleven days later, I am reminded of the power behind organizing black students on a college campus.
Professor Michael Dawson argues, “A construct of linked fate is needed to measure the degree to which African Americans believe that their own self-interests are linked to the interests of the race.” This concept that black people (and in my lens more specifically black youth) are connected simply by their race is one easily associated with the civil rights movement or the Jim Crow Era. It becomes a more difficult argument to make when placing the idea of “linked-fate” into a 21st century context– in a time where post-racial rumors fill the media and a Black president becomes evidence (for some) that we have reached a racial promise land.
At a time where black and brown youth will be maneuvering through a tattered education system with over 50 schools closing, I am reminded of the iterative need for organizing black youth that share a common experience. Ignoring linked-fate is ignoring the comments made by friends that ask black students on campus to “dress in a hoody and walk with them to the store, so they wont get mugged.” Ignoring linked-fate is, me, hiding the fact that I got pulled over by my own campus police while walking down the street that I live on. Ignoring linked fate is ignoring the power of a shared experience that did not end when Greensboro Four helped to intergrate lunch counters in the south.
The Organization of Black Students (OBS) encourages me on my campus. Sometimes we overlook the importance of creating a social space where individuals can feel safe. A space where students can help each other bare the burdens of a world (or just a campus life) where race still has an impact on your daily activities, regardless if we want it to or not.
I am also encouraged by the progress that our country has made in the last century. I say “century” because sometimes we forget the importance of taking a step back and measuring the progress that is being made. This measured progress, give us hope to keep moving forward and an opportunity to forfeit our quicksand cynicism, but it also allows us to understand that we have not reach whatever post-racial promise land some in this country falsely imagine to be a reality.
In the midst of organizing that is taking place on campus, I think it is important to point out the organizing that is happening by black youth outside of ivory towers. Last month I attended a protest with FLY (Fearless Leading by the Youth) and was fueled by their vigor. But in the name of progress, I noticed that their struggle for a trauma center transcended race and fell right into the lap of what seemed right. This is probably why this specific protest was one of the rare occasions for students and community members to work together for a just cause. Here we can find how the power of a shared experience and how it moves people towards action. As we learn from the Greensboro’s Four, we learn just how action brings change.