Read this article in Spanish here.

Freedom of expression is a basic human right and the founding value of ROOSTERGNN. In this Special Series, ROOSTERGNN explores the state of freedom of expression around the world. Follow the complete series here.

The year is 1962. Blacks are banned from eating in the same restaurants as whites. Our is color too diseased to use the same toilets. Young adults sit on the front lines of lunch counters and bus boycotts, fighting for the madness to end. And it does. By leaps and bounds, an America characterized by separated color lines had the tenacity and drive to evolve into a truer form of equality. But despite these strides, can we truly say our country is where it needs to be in terms of race relations?

There is a lot of racial tension in America today. Not because the issues are new, but in large part due to the platform the internet provides for airing shared experiences of ignorance and prejudice. The Ferguson case is just one example of that fact. What is most important to grasp is this is not a color issue.

It is a people issue. If you believe all people are created equal regardless of race, sex, or disability, you shouldn’t be fighting the people who tell their story but instead should be fighting for improved conditions. We must first educate ourselves on the differences of others, embracing each anomaly as yet another reason to love that person. Allowing our differences to separate us will only weaken us. I realize I am a bit idealistic, but that is a trait JFK recognized and celebrated in the youth, making it a top priority to spread messages to those who still believed the sky is the limit. We are old enough to make conscious decisions but young enough to fight for change. That is our reality: now is the time to act.

A Brief History:

Having problems within our country is not new. Vietnam. Slavery. The Trail of Tears. People have been fighting for their rights since the dawn of our nation. What makes us a unicorn is our ability to grow and move forward as a country. At this moment in time, we young people need to be reminded of our power.

In 1960, college students sat at lunch counters and rode buses around the country in a show of unity. Black and white Americans did this together. Both believed there was an injustice in America, so much so that they were willing to act to make a difference.

1964, student demonstrators protested U.S. intervention in Vietnam.

1977, University attendants across the nation marched against the use of nuclear weapons.

In 2007, in response to a KKK showing of “white power,” the ARA (Anti Racist Action) joined the rally as a series of clowns at the ready for each time the phrase was yelled. White Power. “White flour?” Throws flour in air. White Power! “White flowers?” Hands each one a flower. White Power!! “Wife Power!” Genius.

What did other generations have that we are currently lacking? Unity. What do we have that they didn’t? Let’s take a look.


Initiators of change in previous generations may have had their perfect afros and psychedelic outfits, but we have something they never had: the Internet.

Much good is coming out of people’s ability to express themselves freely on the internet. It provides the opportunity to see into the heart of another person’s experience. We can measure the temperature of public emotion on a certain topic or issue. We share our opinion and read others’ thoughts, hopefully growing as we consider another’s point of view. But at some point there must be action. If we change in our minds but put no pressure on institutions to create change then how is our world better for those who come after us? Several universities have used the Internet to send social messages to the world. That’s a great start. While it’s great to act in the digital world it is vital we make our stand in the physical one as well.

STEPS TO FIGHT: Education, Organization, Action

In case you missed it, this is a call to action.

I am calling you out. I am calling myself out. It is time for us to go beyond the passivity of a “controversial” Facebook post and step forward into motion. There are three clear steps which lead to forming the next revolution.

Step one: Education

In order to make an acute impact, we must be educated. No matter which cause you choose to champion, you must know the ins and outs of the issue and also, the mode in which to champion your cause.

Here’s a refresher from 5th grade:

Amendment 1 in our Bill of Rights, “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Some universities also have specific guidelines for what is “proper” when bringing awareness to be sure of individual school policies.

These are our rights. We have to know the steps available to address our issue. First, identify and define the issue you are targeting and then who the source of the issue is. Research everything on the topic. Be relevant.

We use the wonderful benefits of instant communication to form flash mobs, dance crazes, and the feel good spread of Happy. Why not use our right to peaceably assemble to send a message? Do something that makes a difference.

Step 2: Organize.

Despite being radicals to the point of contention, the Black Panther Party held something that was invaluable. Solidarity. In order to create a widespread movement, intentional organization is needed. Start by getting together with a group of like-minded friends who are tired of talking and are ready to take action. Ideas will spark and organization will follow. But what if that vision was shared with organizations on your campus? It would be inspirational to have your university unite to make a change. And what if all college students shared in a common vision to do the same thing at the same time on the same day? That’s the definition of a movement. Will you be making a list of complaints or a list of actions in whichever organization you have chosen to tie your allegiance to this school year?

The value of strong leadership cannot be overlooked. It’s no coincidence Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. made such an impact. It began with a shared vision and a common goal. No one knows who our next leader will be. Just as Katniss rose from the ashes, it’s now time for our own Mockingjay.

Step 3: Act

It is not enough to believe and believe as much as we can achieve and never act. Elie Weisel makes it clear. “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented,” he said.

It is our time. Are we, the generation who values service and well doing, going to sit back and let the world’s issues pass us by? Are we going to join organizations designated to enact change just to be stuck in a land lock of inaction attributed to “politics” or laziness? Really, young America?

I believe we are better than that, so we have to educate ourselves, organize, and then act. Are you ready to join the Modern-Day Sit-In? First, we must define what that is. What does it look like? We are the initiators of this movement. We get to innovate and be witty, building on the successes of those who came before us.

For a push from kings and queens of action. Consider:

Maya Angelou, who,

  • Was a relatively normal person who saw a problem, asked the question, “what are we going to do to change that?” and attempted various solutions
  • Joined friends who were actors, poets, and artists to create a play on race relations which challenged viewpoints
  • Contacted local grassroots efforts to see what she could organize and contribute
  • Joined friends who were writers to see what visibility they could gain so a leader’s assassination wouldn’t go unnoticed- created hair clips with black veils, handed them out to the masses, went to parliament and stood at the same time, in a silent show of dissent
  • Shared her story so others would know the truth

Hellen Keller, who

  • Used her position of affluence as a source for understanding the converse plight of the lower class who suffered inequalities when it came to their disabilities
  • Lectured the masses so ignorance was no longer an excuse
  • Solicited money makers for causes uncelebrated
  • Started the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), an organization dedicated to preserving basic rights
  • Fought class privilege, for the rights of the deaf and blind

Martin Luther King, Jr., who

  • Did not hesitate to use his natural leadership abilities to further the cause of equality
  • Championed the nonviolent movement
  • Led the bus boycott and March on Washington
  • Spread Agape love for all

Embrace imagination and creativity. Use your natural abilities to spread a message worth knowing. We were blessed to be born into a country where freedom of expression is a right. Don’t take it lightly.

The year is 2014. People of color from every background express lives laced with inequalities. The affects of a system of oppression implemented in the birth of our nation has yet to be fully dismantled. Children are dying for no reason. What action will you take? When your kids ask about this time in the history, of our great nation, what will you tell them you did to make a change?