New Bedford Youth Exemplify Dr. King’s Message [OPINION]
Several of my younger colleagues were headed to the now-nightly demonstrations that have occurred in New Bedford since the disturbing and untimely death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month. I decided to tag along not to talk, not to question, but to listen.
I learned a lot.
An old guy now, mostly confined to the studio, I approached the rally with a ton of skepticism. This was not my first rodeo. I've attended dozens of rallies for dozens of causes over my long career as a reporter and from a distance, it appeared that this would be just another one of those.
I was wrong.
The first thing that struck me was that I was the oldest dude at the intersection of County and Union Streets during this rally. Most of the participants were much younger. Many appeared to be the ages of my kids, who are in their 20s. Where were all of the social justice warriors of decades past? You know, the older folks? The remnants of the civil rights era? Their absence was glaring but I'm not sure why just yet.
The second thing that struck me was the attention span of these young adults. This was the fourth consecutive day of their protest and yet their dedication to the cause seems to grow stronger with every hour. Generally, with events such as these, emotions tend to ebb after a day or two and life returns to normal with not much changing.
The third thing that struck me was the clear knowledge and understanding of how their actions would be perceived and how any progress would be measured by those actions. The young rally organizers have made a conscious decision to model their behavior after that of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as opposed to Malcolm X, who chose a less peaceful approach to deliver a message. In doing so, they expressed their respect and admiration for the local police despite the deep differences in their relationship.
Let me be clear, though, not all members of the group favor the peaceful approach, but they accept that they are in the minority and have kept their desire to lash out under control.
I was also present for an emotional and hopefully meaningful impromptu dialogue between protesters and a contingent of police officers in the middle of County Street, during which the protester's grievances were aired. While there was no consensus reached, the officers took a knee with the protesters as a sign of solidarity and agreed to keep the dialogue moving.
I don't agree with all of the protester's tactics. I can't support loud late-night marches through city neighborhoods and wish they would stop that. I also wish they would get out of the street because they pose a safety risk to themselves and others. But I do approve of their dedication to the message and many of their concerns are certainly reasonable.
Someone at last night's rally made the point that any real change is going to have to come from within the Black community. There need to be more Black candidates, teachers, judges, and police officers and that requires a greater dedication to the black family unit and the educational attainment of young black children. The young people I witnessed last night seem to understand that.
Let it be noted that while the youth of New Bedford was at the intersection of County and Union Streets last night engaged in a dialogue with police officers, the youth of nearby Brockton engaged in violence and the unnecessary and unproductive torching of a Dunkin' shop.
I was proud to see the youth of New Bedford exemplifying the dream of Dr. King. Keep fighting for what you believe in and keep making New Bedford proud.
Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.