Minnijean Brown Trickey: Conversation With An Activist
Posted: November 30th, 2011 ˑ Filled under: Featured, How To Change The World ˑ No Comments
Minnijean Brown Trickey is one of those activists that may not be the highest profile but certainly commands a great deal of respect, and for good reason. In 1957, a 16-year-old Minnijean Brown, along with eight fellow African-American teenage students effectively de-segregated Little Rock Central High School. The students attended classes under the supervision of the National Guard, sent in by President Eisenhower. The students became known as the “Little Rock Nine” and became iconic symbols of the struggle for civil rights.
50 odd years have not slowed Minnijean down any, though. She has been fighting tirelessly for various causes and on Wednesday night, I had the immense privilege and pleasure to be able to listen to her speak and answer the questions of the fifty or so other eager UBC staff, students and alumni.
I couldn’t possibly impart just how amazing, gracious and hilarious this woman is but there are a few points she made that I’d like to share. Firstly, she very firmly and passionately reminded us that we don’t have any excuses– changes that came about during the civil rights struggle of the 50s and 60s involved great effort and great sacrifice. There is a lot of work to be done and we can’t just sit around and make up lame excuses not to do it.
Secondly, there are not “black issues” or “white issues” or “environmental issues”- they are human issues. Why can’t we get involved on the basis of humanity and wanting to help? She remarked that the struggles of homosexuals, transgendered people, black people, First Nations- they are all “our” issues. She added, responding to a question about why our generation seems hesitant to act, that there really is a way forward but we have to stop thinking someone else will demand things for us. This really resonated with me because while a lot of us like to pat ourselves on the back for posting things we don’t like on facebook, twitter, our BLOGS (guilty), we don’t DEMAND anything. Pick up the phone, call your MP, organize!
Lastly, though Minnijean had much more to say than the brief points I’ve made here, she re-iterated the pledge of non-violence. She (with great enthusiasm and passion) implored all of us to remember that and to hold that very dear. Police and authorities will show up and act foolishly but the dignity will fall on the shoulders of those peacefully resisting the injustices they see/feel/experience, just as the dignity fell onto the shoulders of nine courageous students in small-town Arkansas in 1957.
You owe it to yourself to google, youtube and wikipedia the Little Rock Nine and Minnijean Brown Trickey
(PS- the room was also filled with many cool concerned citizens, from a wide variety of backgrounds but my favourites were the Italian professor injected sustainability into her class out of ‘plain stubbornness’ and the young woman from Occupy who asked for some inspiration or advice from Minnijean. Her response: her critics had all the same arguments against what she was doing in 1957)