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This Black History Month, I encourage everyone to teach children about their history. Not only that, teach children about CHILDREN in history. Too often, we ignore younger people. We dismiss them as lazy, we claim they just don’t know how it is, so they should listen to their elders. They should, but the elders should listen back. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s was run in part by youth. They were putting their lives on the line when they desegregated schools, freedom rode, sat in, and marched on. It is time to give those under 25 their overdue respect and love. Chris Thompson
#BlackYouthMatter: Vol II
This is the second of my four part series that will highlight the exploits of young people past and present making history in their own way:
Hausa warrior Amina, Daughter of Nikatau, was only 16 when she was named “Magajiya” (heir apparent). From her youth, she had distinguished herself as a born leader and politician, leading her family’s army and becoming a skilled warrior. She had many suitors vying for her hand in marriage, but she was having none of that and instead rose to become queen of her Zazzau nation and expanded its territory over the span of 34 years. #BlackHistoryMonth #BlackYouthMatter
The Greensboro 4 were David Richmond, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr. (Jibreel Khazan), and Joe McNeil, students at North Carolina A&T State University. On February 1, 1960, they staged a sit-in at a Woolworth in Greensboro, NC, a popular retail store that was known for refusing to serve African Americans at its lunch counter. Their non-violent protest led others to follow suit. Sit-ins began occurring across the South. The four 17-year-olds bought school supplies from the Woolworth and then sat down at the lunch counter to eat. They were taunted, physically abused, and the police were called, but they stayed there until the store closed. The next day, 12 black people sat in. The following months saw thousands of demonstrators in Greensboro protesting the segregation policy. 5 ½ months later, the Woolworth finally relented. The Greensboro 4 risked their lives and were successful.
Sage Grace Dolan-Sandrino became an activist when she came out to the world as trans at the age of 13. She wasn’t given the support she needed from school administrators, but instead of withdrawing from her school community, she brought a local LGBTQ+ non-profit into the school to transform it, building her own public profile in the process. In the past five years, Sage has racked up an impressive number of achievements. At the age of 16, Sage was a writer-at-large for Teen Vogue, authoring stories about race and gender identity, and the threats to the trans community under the trump administration. She has also written for Vice and Rewire. She was also an ambassador to the White House Initiative for Educational Excellence for African Americans. She was also a member of the Kennedy Center Youth Council, and she’s served on the Gender Spectrum National Youth Advisory Council. Dolan-Sandrino is currently a student at Bard College and has no plans to stop being an artist, activist, and public speaker.
Jagama Kello of Gimchi, a city in Shewa, Ethiopia, witnessed his country be invaded in 1935 Benito Mussolini’s fascist Italian army, launching the Second Italo-Abyssinian War, forcing Emperor Haile Selassie into exile. When the interlopers took over Addis Ababa in 1936, 15-year-old Kello could not stand by any longer; Kello and his brother joined a guerrilla campaign to fight the invaders. Despite being unarmed, he ambushed Italian troops and took their weapons. By the end of the war, Kello led over 3,500 fighters under their command. His rebel army included everyone from farmers to noblemen to merchants. Even women would take up arms to follow Kello. Upon successfully ousting the Italians and Emperor Haile Selassie’s return from exile, Kello stayed in the official army and eventually became a Lieutenant General. He maintained his epic afro until illness struck him and he had to shave it.
Marsai Martin (@MarsaiMartin) is a Little Elm, Texas native most widely known as Diane from the family sitcom Black-ish (@Blackish) . For this role, Martin has received numerous awards, including 5 NAACP Image Awards, a SAG Award, a Shorty Award, and a Young Artist Award. Martin’s film debut was in American Girl Story: Melody 1963, an Amazon Studios original film. Her first big screen debut was a lead role in the film Little, which at the age of 13 she also executive produced, making Marsai Martin the youngest exectuvie producer in Hollywood.
Tony Weaver, Jr. was not content with the lack of positive roles for black men there were in media. Since growing up and having volunteered in his local community, he knew the misrepresentation was widespread with devastating effects. At the age of 20, Weaver founded Weird Enough Productions, a comic company with the intention of changing the media narrative of black men and minority groups. Weaver has been the recipient of the Leadership Prize and the Black Excellence Award, and participated in the NBCUniversal Fellowship Program. Since its inception in 2014, Weird Enough Productions has produced eight short films surrounding issues such as police brutality, biased news reporting, and toxic gender norms. Its educational curriculum has reached over 1,500 students around the country, and its content viewed by over 100,000 people.
One more thing:
A longstanding rumor is that black babies in Florida were used as “alligator bait”; newborns and small children would be used to lure gators for game hunting or food or for zoos. The veracity of this claim is contentious, and journalists who documented this were not as integrous as today, but the rumor lives on. It is difficult to prove or disprove this, as people did not care what happened to black people and therefore did not care to fully document their tribulations. However, the trope was very popular, as depicted for humor throughout the years, and given the other atrocities inflicted on enslaved people of this country, it is not out of the realm of possibility. This exemplifies the disdain and dismissal of humanity for which people had for Black people, even children.
About Chris Thompson
(he/his/him) Chris Thompson is an engineer, writer, comedian, and activist who made Rochester, New York his home in 2008. In addition to his role as Contributor for 540Blog , he currently writes the Chronicles of Nonsense segment for the Almost Tuesday show on WAYO-FM 104.3, and regularly posts and writes on his own on Instagram and Twitter at @ChronsOfNon.Additionally , Chris is a Food Writer for Rochester City Newspaper. His blog is http://www.chroniclesofnonesense.com
About 29 Days of Little Known Facts About (Black) American History
29 Days of Little Known Facts About (Black) American History is an annual blog campaign curated by 540WMain that has a mission to promote and share little known facts about Black Americans everyday throughout the month of February. Now in it 3rd year the campaign highlights the life and work of past and present day Black Americans that are overlooked or underrepresented in our conversations about American history.
540WMain will celebrate its 4 year anniversary with a party and extravaganza on Saturday June 20, 2020. In just four years the organization has become a pillar in the Susan B. Anthony neighborhood and a convener and curator of important and vital community conversations, classes, and programs. Your financial support helps us scale up this work in 2020 and beyond with a year long fundraising goal of $40,000