The only thing I was ever taught about the American Civil Rights Movement was the big names: the main trailblazers that have roads named after them, books written about them, or are displayed in museums, like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and Malcolm X. For many years, I knew only the faces of these social movements and not enough about the thousands of people who worked both individually and together with these more famous leaders across the nation. This inaugural Summer Teach-In at the Center for Civil and Human Rights taught me the events one never learns in school or the movies: what takes place behind the scenes.
During my time at the Summer Teach-In, I learned how to take collaboration to the next level. The program created an environment for strangers with a common interest to come together for three days to create a plan for tackling a social injustice in the world. It seemed overwhelming at first but there were endless resources and willing staff to help in any way they could. This experience showed me that people can have a similar goal but believe in a different way to achieve it. In learning about the logistics of social movements, I learned that although the U.S. Congress is struggling with this very issue now, people on different sides of the coin CAN come together to achieve a common goal. We did.
I am truly thankful for having the opportunity to participate in something so unique and specific to young people. Instead of solely venting on social media, this experience taught me the skills and gave me the tools to put my outrage regarding the social injustices in the world into a constructive and productive means of alleviating the struggles of society. I now have an abundance of resources at my disposal through the Center for Civil and Human Rights, International Human Trafficking Institute, guests at the Teach-In, and the Teach-In cohort. I also now have the terminology, methods, and role models to look at as I create positive change in my community. This Summer Teach-In inspired me about the potential of Millennials in the United States and that everyone can play a role in tackling social injustice. There are the people in the marches, others at the capitol or courts, those planning strategies, and even others who cook meals. Each role, no matter how small, can make a difference.