Freedom Rider still fighting
Written by TARA KELLER Sentinel Staff Writer
Friday, 25 October 2013 10:22
Diane Nash knew what she did was dangerous.
|Civil Rights activist Diane Nash speaks at BGSU on October 24, 2013. Nash spoke on her experience as a college student and leader in Nashville, Tennessee during the 1960's Movement and advocated for non-violent resolutions to issues. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
Helping to organize sit-ins, the Freedom Rides, and the Selma-to-Montgomery March in the 1960s could have resulted in a public death.
The founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee didn't care about herself - she was taking care of people who hadn't even been born yet.
"We'd say 'remember what we're doing is important. We're doing this for the next generation,'" Nash said. "Although we didn't meet you, we loved you."
Bowling Green State University's Department of Ethnic Studies sponsored Nash to spread her story of love and activism last night at the university with her lecture, "The Movements of the '60s: A Legacy for Today."
Nash's movements started at a young age.
After growing up on the south side of Chicago, Nash attended Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn. and got her first taste of "real segregation."
Along with other black people, Nash wasn't allowed to use the same restaurants and restrooms as white people.
"When I obeyed segregation rules, it felt like I was agreeing to it," she said. "It felt like I was inferior to them."
She demanded a change.
Nash looked for student organizations and found there weren't many students who were ready to take a stand.
"They were convinced I'd only get myself into trouble and not be successful," she said.
Determined to prove them wrong, Nash met with the Rev. James Lawson, who taught her about Mahatma Gandhi and nonviolence.
This insight helped her form SNCC and begin her journey of changing racist behaviors.
Nash took Gandhi's notion of nonviolence and coined her own phrase - agapic energy.
"Many of you have never heard of it," she said. "I made it up."
The phrase means love of human kind, and it's all about energy.
It takes energy to punch a racist person. It takes energy for humankind to wage warfare against members of a different race.
That kind of energy is misdirected, Nash said, and doesn't get anything done.
"Love is an emotion. Love produces energy," she said. "It's not passive. It's active."
Using agapic energy to understand the opponent is the first step to change.
Talking to the person about their racism is safer and more effective than hurting that person until they change their views, she said.
"People are never your enemy. Unjust political systems - those are enemies," she said. "Oppression always requires the cooperation of the oppressed."
Agapic energy requires six steps, and Nash used of all them.
From persuading segregated restaurant owners to accept customers of every race to gaining support for the March on Washington, Nash and her thousands of fellow supporters helped change the way a nation worked.
"You can either tolerate behavior or change behavior," she said. "Following these principles will save you a lot of time trying to change people."
The steps include investigation, education, negotiation, demonstration, resistance and taking steps to insure problem doesn't reoccur.
"Notice that I didn't say agapic energy is easy," Nash said. "It's not."
The journey was tough, and that's why BGSU President Mary Ellen Mazey enjoyed hearing Nash's story.
"What a tremendous role model to us all," Mazey said. "She had the courage it took to stand up for what she believed in."
Stephanie Rader had lunch earlier in the evening with Nash and brought her son with her to the lecture.
"I could have listened to her all day," Rader said. "She lived it. She was a quiet fire."
While Nash is known nationwide for her work, she is quick to remind people that she didn't do it alone.
"It took many thousands of people working. Many thousands of people's names we'll never know," Nash said. "They were very brave."
It's bravery that helped Nash do something dangerous to help everyone who would come after her.
"We are not called upon to be successful," Nash said. "We are called upon to do our best."