NAACP hosts sit-in commemoration

By Sandra Masibay

Students and community members socialized and engaged in serious conversation at Thursday night’s sit-in commemorating the Civil Rights movement.

The NIU NAACP chapter hosted an all-night sit-in/teach-in at the Center for Black Studies to commemorate the people and struggles of the Civil Rights movement.

“Students born in the 1970s have very little idea of the beginnings of the NAACP and the importance it had on the Civil Rights movement. This program sheds some light on what people of color had to go through to achieve certain rights caucasians took for granted,” said Van Anthony Amos, Director of the Center for Black Studies.

Russell Brooks Glenn, NIU student and winner of the 1993 Unity and Diversity Speech Contest, said, “I’m not very familiar with the happenings of the Civil Rights movement. What comes to mind is a mixture of frustration, hurt and mixed emotions. I hope to learn a lot through the program.”

The night was kicked off with participants having ample time to socialize and meet peers and members of the community as a dinner of barbecue wings and punch was served.

After the social hour, keynote speaker the Rev. Leroy Mitchell of the NIU CHANCE office spoke to the audience about the Civil Rights movement, pride and perseverance.

Mitchell used visual aids, related history, quoted Martin Luther King Jr. and asked audience members probing questions about what they thought life was like for African-Americans during that time.

“What was the general mood of black people? What kind of consequences could black people face if they followed black leadership,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell listed important dates on the board in reference to the bus boycott of Dec. 5, 1955. He challenged the audience to state the significance of Dec. 12, the day the boycott ended.

Audience members could not answer, to which Mitchell replied, “You all know when America was discovered. You need to know the dates which affect you.

“We need to remember where we are because some folks who couldn’t read or speak well before us took a stand. We really do have to remember why we are here and how we got here. Every time I get discouraged I look at this picture of this older woman with a box of groceries on her head and bags under each arm, and I think of how she helped the movement.

“Folks that got the whole thing started were cleaning ladies who rode the bus. When you look at the films, you see the women. They were the soldiers in that army who said, ‘We’re gonna show you how it’s done,'” Mitchell said.

Mitchell went on to address the meaning and usage of terms such as “minority.”

“That word is a mind-set. If you think you are a minority, then you are a minority,” he said.

This reinforced earlier statements of the importance of self-identity.

“I am afraid that we are not learning about ourselves anymore. People who do not know about themselves can become enslaved again. They are enslaved through violence and drugs. We have to break the bond,” Mitchell said.

After Mitchell spoke, a one-hour segment of the “Eyes on the Prize” series was shown, followed by a ceremony that paid respects to people involved in the Civil Rights movement. Student speakers then spoke and the evening ended with more social interaction.

“We just cannot find that kind of unity (experienced in the Civil Rights movement) anymore. Do we have to go through some type of tragedy to unite,” said Erika Summers, vice president of the NIU NAACP chapter.