I grew up in the fifties and sixties. During my formative years, when “separate but equal” was legal, and “Whites Only” signs peppered my world – always reminding me that there was something different about those of us who weren’t White — our grandparents who couldn’t read, and our parents who didn’t finish high school, were committed to seeing the next generation achieve more than they had achieved. They encouraged us to march, sit-in, demonstrate, and fight for the right to equal education, and equal access to public accommodations – not just separate but equal facilities. They joined us in the sacrifices of life and limb to secure the right to vote. They looked forward to the day when those barriers would be removed. That day is not here yet.
When I reflect on those days, I am reminded of the “Freedom Riders” who came to our aid. The murders of James Chaney, a 21-year-old black man from Meridian, Mississippi, Andrew Goodman, a 20-year-old Jewish anthropology student from New York, and Michael Schwerner, a 24-year-old Jewish social worker also from New York, helped symbolize the dangers of the civil rights movement as part of what became known in 1964 as “Freedom Summer.” These were Freedom Riders.
There were also “Free Riders” – those among us who wanted the benefits, but weren’t willing to make any sacrifices. Those who didn’t contribute their time or money to the success of the movement. Often, those of us old enough to remember, consider many of the current generation as “Free Riders.”
This generation of Free Riders behave as if the battle is won and all barriers are removed. Others have stopped voting, or never register to vote. On the economic front, many have stopped supporting Black-owned businesses, and proclaim to be “colorblind.” If we won’t support our brothers and sisters, who will?
Finally, far too many have stopped striving for excellence. The dropout rates in high schools, and the underskilled and under-educated who aren’t in school are sad testimonies to the reality that “freedom isn’t free.” It never has been and never will be.
We are all dissatisfied with the gaps that are so prominent across our communities – the education gap, the wealth gap, the homeownership gap, the employment gap.
The disproportionate negative factors among Blacks are also unacceptable – men and women in prisons, unemployment rates, divorce rates, unwed pregnancies, single-family homes, children in poverty.
At the risk of being self-serving, we created this community to contribute our small efforts to raising up a new generation of “Freedom Riders.”
The Internet affords us a new opportunity “connect” and “support” those who have made a commitment to raise the bar for our Virtual Black Community. The Internet version of “free riders” are the “lurkers” who sit anonymously on the sidelines, but seldom contribute.
- These freedom riders don’t have to sacrifice life and limb.
- They do have to put their money where their mouths are.
- They do have to let their actions speak louder than their words.
- They do have to “exercise their freedom” to vote – with their ballots and with their dollars.
- They do have to make education of our children a priority for competing in the Global Society in which we live.
Become a 21st Century Freedom Rider. Don’t be a lurker. Visit www.izania.com and other online forums and listserves often and invite others to join you in the march to a new level of freedom. Shop at www.izaniamarket.com and other Black online merchants. Support your brothers and sisters business so they can create job opportunities.
You will find the quality and selection you want if you look for it across the Virtual Black Community created by the Internet. The battle for equality is not won. If we want better outcomes in our communities, we must lead the way by actively supporting one another.
More than Networking, We Make the ‘Net Work For You!