“MY ******”!!! Stop Using This Word!!! Youth Take Anti-Violence Message to Dallas Streets by Darwin Campbell African-American News and Issues Youth have been at the heart of movements that have impacted and changed the course of African American history. With the history of African Americans filled with trails of blood and death at the hands of slave masters, ruthless bounty hunters and ambitious auctioneers who saw Blacks as nothing more than “*******,” over 50 African American youth in Dallas took to the streets to change history in South Dallas-Oak Cliff in a march against violence and using words like “******,” “******,” and “My ******” to raise awareness about the related trouble the words nurture. “We are here to draw the line and stop the violence,” said Renecia Smith, 15, of Dallas. “The N-word has pushed violence to the limit and it needs to be stopped. These words are living symbols of racism and death. It killed us then and it will kill us now unless we change.” Using megaphones and loud voices, the teens surrounded Southwest Mall with placards and protest signs and marched up Camp Wisdom Road chanted “Stop the Violence! Start the Peace! Stop the Hate! Start the Love… Peace, Love, not Violence, not Hate!” “This march is to let the people know that we are intelligent young Black people doing something with our lives,” said Tacovia Braggs, 18, one of the student leaders of the N-Word Free/anti-violence youth movement. “This is not a positive label, it is a negative label and it is at the center of all the fights, friction and violence going on among our youth. Our children do deserve better.” During the Civil Rights Movement, it took youth to give energy to a movement that would lead to changes in federal laws and better civil and voting rights conditions around the country. In the summer of 1958, the first sit-ins were conducted by NAACP Youth Council to win concessions in a Southern State in modern times occurred in restaurants in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. National sit-in campaigns were initiated in February 1960 when four (4) Black students from North Carolina A&T College sat down at Woolworth's lunch counter in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina. The students, Joseph McNeil, Izell Blair, Franklin McCain, and David Richmond, purchased several items in the store before sitting at the counter reserved for white customers. When a waitress asked them to leave, they politely refused; and to their surprise, they were not arrested. The four students remained seated for almost an hour until the store closed. The following morning about two-dozen students arrived at Woolworth’s and sat at the lunch counter. The Greensboro protesters eventually agreed to the mayor’s request to halt protest activities while city officials sought “a just and honorable solution,” but Black students in other communities launched lunch counter protests of their own. By the end of the month, sit-ins had taken place at more than 30 locations in seven states. In 1962, a youth led a series of sit-in demonstrations and passive resistance movements in Cairo, Illinois. The demonstrations against segregation in swimming pools, skating rinks and other public facilities continued for several months until city leaders were forced to make changes. In modern times, preserving civil and voting rights remains a priority, but some of today’s youth have a new vision that involves working to save themselves and make a difference in a world that continues to see African American youth at a disadvantage and experiencing high drop out rates and higher arrest and incarceration rates than White and Hispanic counterparts. “We are out here, because we want to bring to the attention that we are more than just “*******” and “******,” said 16-year-old Cameron Ferguson. “We are proud African American men and we are tired of the stereotypes and suspicions surrounding African American Black youth and men.” In the 1600s, slaves were brought to North America and the verbal abuse, beatings, sale, rapes and lynching were common until slavery ended in 1865. Millions died during the Middle Passage and hundreds of thousands were killed at the hand of racist caretakers. Even after freedom, Blacks faced continuous intimidation, torture, torment and abuse by racists who refused to accept federal laws. “This term is degrading to our Black people. Whites whipped us and beat us behind this word,” said 11-year-old Chandler Ferguson. “What we are doing is positive and stopping this word should create a more positive image for African American males.” Whatever its origins, by the early 1800s it was firmly established as a racist term. For over two centuries, it still remains the chief symbol of white racism. The word ****** carries much hatred directed toward Africans and African Americans. The historical relationship between European Americans and African Americans was shaped by a racial hierarchy, which spanned three centuries. Anti-black attitudes, values and behavior were common during that time. In 2001, Dr. David Pilgrim, Professor of Sociology, and Dr. Phillip Middleton, Professor of Languages and Literature, Ferris State University studied and noted in a report that the N-Word has defined, limited, and mocked African Americans throughout American history. For youth protesting using the N-Word, the priority is on rebuilding self-esteem and pride in a generation and people who have been deprived of the knowledge of their rich culture, heritage and history. “This word is harsh and comes from the age of slavery,” said 15-year-old Mariah Hunter. “I use to use the word all the time until I got an understanding of what it means and what it is doing to our people. Young people don’t understand how dangerous this word is and the damage it does to our self-esteem.” It’s about raising youth above the slave mentality and “Willie Lynch “ thinking that has all but gutted futures and dashed hopes and dreams of escaping the traps that leave us scratching at the bottom of the barrel just to survive. “Saying ****** is not ok. Youth try to justify it by saying they changed the meaning around, but you cannot change the meaning of a word like this,” said 15-year-old Deunbria Ivory. “If we as youth went through what slaves went through, we would better understand why being violent and derogatory to one another is not good for us as a people. I am sure Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. is not pleased.” Dallas teacher Curtis Ferguson started the “Flowers in the Dirt” N-Word Free Campaign. Earlier this year, Ferguson camped outside just off Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard in Dallas and went on a hunger strike to make a point and bring attention to the derogatory use and acceptance of the word. Since that time, youth have taken up the fight and the Dallas Independent School District is even considering a ban on using the word in schools district wide. The district also wants student and teacher sanctions for violations that involve training and other measures to prevent its use. Parents like Felinda Ross and Clem Hunter participated in the march and support the youth’s effort to take the lead and charge of their futures and for their work trying to save fellow students. “As a Black mother raising three kids alone, I don’t want my kids to fall to violence and other negative influences,” said Felinda Ross. “I had a great grandmother and mother who suffered greatly because of this word. I am working hard for them to get a good education and have high self-esteem.” Hunter added, “We do not want kids to say bad words or do negative self talk amongst one another. It is very important for them to learn and know the history and heritage, so that the mistakes made before will not be repeated among our own people.” ------------------------------------------------------------------- This is their own fight and as adults we can only provide advice but the DECISION will be on them whether to use this term for everyday interaction. Since it is everywhere in our community, both the wise and unwise, doing good or doing less than good will be called a '*****' in the community. I have over the memorial weekend minding my OWN BUSINESS on more than one occasion. I HEAR you but I dont KNOW you. NO DISCERNMENT but I dont think its a COMPLETE LOSS maybe WEAR and TEAR will break us FREE. Oh well.