The Civil Rights Movement’s Impact on Our Lives: Part 1

DSA activists remember how their lives were impacted by Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement.

MLK-

 “You can’t talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of the slums. . . . There must be a better distribution of wealth . . .And maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.”

-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., speech to the SCLC staff, Frogmore, S.C., November 14, 1966.

Part 1, By Minnie Ruffin

I have been a social activist since 1960. I was inspired by the four freshman students at my school, North Carolina A & T State University, who initiated the student sit-ins at a Woolworth lunch counter in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina. In fact, the majority of the student body was inspired. Many of us joined this movement and others supported it, including many of our teachers. 

After lunch counters were integrated, we marched to integrate movie theaters. It was during those demonstrations in 1963 that I participated in my first act of civil disobedience, along with a vast number of other students.

Those were inspirational times. I had been raised as the daughter of sharecroppers, who was always reminded where my “place” was as a human being—a place different from that of the children of the farm owners. It’s hard to explain how much it meant to me and other students at my college to be given a glimmer of hope that through our actions perhaps we could change our unprivileged status and become fully equal American citizens.

The seeds of activism planted during those undergraduate days stayed with me through graduate school and I stepped up my social activism again in the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations at the University of California at Berkeley. As a nutrition major, I also volunteered to help in the Black Panther Party’s Breakfast for Children Program in Oakland, California. (By the way, their program precede­­d the USDA’s breakfast program.)

Those events all took place during the 1960’s and 1970’s. I did not participate in the freedom rides and the civil rights demonstrations in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, etc., although I did support those actions.

We as Americans made great progress during the 60’s and 70’s. The Civil Rights Act was passed, the Voting Rights Act was passed, and the war in Vietnam ended. The mistake we made during the succeeding years was that we were not vigilant in making sure we nurtured and strengthened these achievements. So I’m afraid that since the 1980’s, hard fought gains have been gradually disappearing. The Voting Rights Act is in limbo; voter suppression is being practiced in over half of the states; the poverty rate is increasing; the homeless rate is increasing; the gap between the very rich and the rest of us is growing; racial, gender, immigrant, and gay discrimination still exists; the environment is being increasingly polluted; and we seem to be at war either openly or secretly in several countries.

So we still have a lot of work to do. It’s going to require all of us to join the struggle. However, I am encouraged that young people seem to be awakening and becoming actively involved. They remind me of the youth of  the 1960’s when I was so inspired. This gives me hope for the future.

minnie.jpg Minnie Ruffin is a member of Metro Atlanta DSA, Atlanta Grandmothers for Peace and Moral Monday Georgia, and is active in the Georgia Coalition for the People's Agenda, convened by Dr. Martin Luther King's associate, Dr. Joseph E. Lowery.

 


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Film Discussion: When Abortion Was Illegal

March 26, 2017
· 12 rsvps

Directed by Dorothy Fadiman, When Abortion Was Illegal (1992, nominated for an Academy Award, Best Documentary Short Subject) reveals through first-person accounts the experiences of women seeking abortion before the Supreme Court legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade in 1973. We are one Supreme Court nominee away from a return in many states to back-alley abortions. Join Amanda Williams, Executive Director of the Lilith Fund, to discuss challenges to reproductive justice and abortion access. (Lilith Fund funds abortions for women in need in the Central and South Texas area.) Learn about how to participate in April Bowl-A-Thons to raise funds for low-income women. View the film here for free before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

DSA New Member Orientation Call

March 30, 2017
· 39 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  9:30 PM ET; 8:30 PM CT; 7:30 PM MT; 6:30 PM PT.

LGBT Activism: A Brief History with Thoughts about the Future

April 01, 2017
· 50 rsvps

Historian John D'Emilio's presentation will do 3 things: Provide a brief explanation of how sexual and gender identities have emerged; provide an overview of the progression of LGBT activism since its origins in the 1950s, highlighting key moments of change; and, finally, suggest what issues, from a democratic socialist perspective, deserve prioritizing now. John co-authored Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America, which was quoted by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision that ruled state sodomy laws unconstitutional. 1 pm ET; 12 pm CT; 11 am MT; 10 am PT.

  1. This webinar is free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have headphones (preferred) or speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Peg Strobel, peg.strobel@sbcglobal.net.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

Film Discussion: Documentaries of People's History in Texas

April 02, 2017
· 30 rsvps

Join DSA members Glenn Scott and Richard Croxdale to discuss videos produced by People’s History in Texas (PHIT), a project that brings to life the stories of ordinary people in significant socio-political movements in Texas. They will discuss The Rag, their newest documentary, which tells the story of an influential underground paper based in Austin, Texas, from 1966-77. Click here to view Part I (the early years as an all-volunteer paper covering the student, anti-Vietnam and Civil Rights movements), Part II (the impact of Women’s Liberation on the paper) and Part III (building community: covering local politics, nukes, co-ops, feminist institutions). But also check out the video on the Stand-Ins about a group of university students who led a movement to desegregate Austin’s movie theaters in 1961. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT. Here's a blog post about PHIT.

Introduction to Democratic Socialism

April 04, 2017
· 53 rsvps

Join Rahel Biru, NYC DSA co-chair, and Joseph Schwartz, DSA Vice-Chair, on this webinar for an overview of what we in Democratic Socialists of America mean when we talk about "socialism," "capitalism" and the goals of the socialist movement.  9 PM ET; 8 PM CT; 7 PM MT; 6 PM PT.

  1. This webinar is free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have headphones (preferred) or speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Joseph Schwartz, schwartzjoem@gmail.com.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

What Is DSA? Training Call

April 05, 2017

If you're a new DSAer, have been on a new member call, but still have questions about DSA's core values/strategy/core work and how to express these ideas in an accessible way to the media, as well as to friends, family and others who might be interested in joining DSA, this call is for you. 

We will talk through the basics of DSA's political orientation and strategy for moving toward democratic socialism, and also have call participants practice discussing these issues with each other. By the end of the call you should feel much more comfortable thinking about and expressing what DSA does and what makes our organization/strategy unique. 8 pm ET; 7 pm CT; 6 pm MT; 5 pm PT. 70 minutes.

Feminist Working Group

April 12, 2017
· 15 rsvps

People of all genders are welcome to join this call to discuss DSA's work on women's and LGBTQ issues, especially in light of the new political reality that we face after the elections.  9 pm ET; 8 pm CT; 7 pm MT; 6 pm PT.

DSA New Member Orientation Call

April 16, 2017
· 6 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  8 pm ET; 7 pm CT; 6 pm MT; 5 pm PT.