The Department of History held a forum called “Black Lives Matter Panel: an Intergenerational Panel on 50 Years of Struggle,” on Tuesday Oct. 25 to discuss the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Lives Matter movement. Members of the panel included Rochester native, Black Lives Matter activist and member of Building Leadership and Community Knowledge in Rochester Chanel Anita Snead; Mississippi native, field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and life-long activist Dorie Ann Ladner and Mississippi native, field secretary for SNCC and organizer for the Birmingham Campaign Colia L. Liddell Lafayette Clark.
Professor of history Emilye Crosby facilitated the discussion and first asked the panelists how they each became activists.
Ladner became involved in the Civil Rights Movement after she saw the photograph of Emmett Louis Till, an African American who was killed for allegedly flirting with a white woman at the age of 14.
“I saw a photograph, and they say a picture is worth a thousand words,” Ladner said. “Once I saw that photograph, I started on my journey to justice,”
Ladner added that her family played a significant role in her becoming an advocate for black rights.
“I had been trained in my home to stand up for my rights by my mother and her family. And my mamma’s family were very independent people in Mississippi,” she said. “My mother instilled in us to stand up for justice when we were small kids, not to let anybody—white or black—harass us or torture us or do anything to make us feel belittled.”
Clark’s family influenced her activism because she “grew up in this household of people who were fresh out of slavery.”
“I am a natural person to come into the movement like Dorie because my experiences, not just my lived experiences, but my oral traditions, my culture, all built me,” Clark said.
Snead became involved in the Black Lives Matter movement after she heard of Michael Brown’s death in August 2014.
“I was moving through life thinking I was on the right track, that I would work hard and get what I needed to get. I didn’t realize that there was so much struggle happening everywhere around me,” Snead said. “I made a decision to put myself in it. I made a decision to use my privilege to fight for other people.”
The panelists were also asked to give advice to the younger generation on how to advocate for black lives effectively. Ladner stressed the importance that youths have in raising awareness and protesting.
“Youths, young people and young ideas are very important because, as you can see in our waning years—with wear and tear physically and emotionally—we have been through a lot,” Ladner said. “We keep doing whatever we can. But young people are born to create revolutions and keep them going. The future is always in the young people.”
Attendees had the opportunity to ask questions during the panel discussion as well. Students asked the panelists whether there was a more effective method of activism and how to consolidate peaceful and violent activist methods.
Snead explained that organizations that support the Black Lives Matter movement vary in regard to their goals and methods because of the multiple ways racism impacts the black community.
“I think that there’s going to be many organizations that have many different goals because white supremacy and racism is coming at the black community from all angles,” she said. “I think that there needs to be unity with those goals … but there’s still going to be multiple organizations and multiple barriers.”
Clark closed the discussion by urging Geneseo students to take part in advocating for black lives.
“You people on campus have got to understand that you live in a world of change and it will not be a white one. You better damn sure get together and work it out,” she said. “This is not a time to play; it is a time for you to set that extra time aside, begin to set up work study groups, coming together to try and find out what is this nation.”
Staff writer Maya Lucyshyn contributed reporting to this article.