Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Reminding Black Youths of Their History

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Reminding Black Youths of Their History

Article excerpt

Byline: Tonyaa Weathersbee

It's an idea whose time has come - again.

Last Christmas night, a 600-person brawl ensued after a few youths tried to barge their way into the Hollywood River City 14 movie theater without paying.

But what happened there was, on one level, a cry for help.

It was a cry for help by youths who being economically and socially isolated for so long never learned the difference between activism and acting out.


Activism would have involved them confronting the police or the theater owner over some policy that they believed was unfair and working to get them to change it.

Acting out, however, was what they did; they engaged in destructiveness geared toward a shallow, short-term goal of getting to see a movie for free.

That's why Opio Sokoni, president of the local chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, believes the melee reinforces the idea that it's time to start showing and not just telling black youths the difference between the two.

He hopes a chapter of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee - an organization that was embraced by Martin Luther King Jr. - can begin to help do that.

King, whose birthday is being observed Monday, was particularly keen on making young people a part of the civil rights movement, of giving them a role in tearing down the segregation that was poised to shackle their future.

SNCC was formed by black college students who realized they were part of something bigger than, say, fighting to get into a movie for free or doing anything that could further add to the challenges that they were already facing.

"Those issues - racism, unemployment, violence - are still with us," Sokoni told me. "In the summer, they [black youths] need jobs, but there aren't any jobs ... these issues haven't gone away."

But when frustration and confusion from those issues build up, youth are at risk for acting out destructively, he said. …

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