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Knowledge is Power: Black History and the Road to Social Justice

September 16, 2021     By Boys Town Contributor

Boys Town, Diversity, education, Family Home Program, Saving Children, School, Teach Love, Teens

​​​They are among the most iconic and sacred sites in our nation's civil rights struggle.

  • The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, where four young girls were murdered in a bombing meant to intimidate and silence the city's Black citizens.   
  • The Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, where civil rights marchers were brutally beaten with batons and attacked with tear gas.
  • ·The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee, centered around the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was felled by an assassin's bullet in 1968.  

For Boys Town senior Maddie Hagan and junior Megan Lambert, visiting the hallowed grounds of these and other landmarks of the civil rights movement was energizing, empowering and emotional.    

“I cried at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice," said Maddie. The memorial commemorates the lives of thousands of Black victims who were lynched during a period of racial terror. “It was so big and overwhelming and heartbreaking to see."  

Maddie and Megan were among dozens of Omaha-area students and educators on the Black Votes Matter: Face-to-Face with Black History Youth Tour, an annual event organized by Omaha author and activist Preston Love, Jr. The weeklong bus tour through the American South was an immersive experience that gave students a deeper understanding and appreciation of the civil rights movement, Black history and social justice.

Indelible Moments
During a visit to the Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham, the group was serenaded by a gospel choir whose members included many participants of the May 1963 Children's Crusade, a march to desegregate the city. The march involved thousands of young people peacefully demonstrating throughout Birmingham. Their efforts, however, were met with violent resistance from local authorities and hundreds of children were detained.  

“Some were as young as 9 and had the courage to face the dogs and water hoses. Here they were  60 years later and still singing," said Megan, who was awed and humbled by their perseverance and heroism.   

There were countless moments throughout the tour that left an indelible impression on the hearts of both girls. Now they are eager to share their experiences and newfound knowledge with other youth at Boys Town and beyond.

Maddie, who was recently elected Boys Town mayor, intends to use her position to educate others about social justice issues. As part of that effort, she wants to establish a unity council on campus where kids can discuss events happening in the world, such as the Black Lives Matter movement.
“It's really easy to see a problem and say someone else will fix it. But you need to take the initiative and realize you can create change regardless of your age or status," explained Maddie.
“The biggest thing is to know what's going on and not be oblivious. Knowledge is power."

Megan, who is an aspiring poet, plans to use the power of her pen and her voice to be a positive change agent. “I can't watch history. I have to be part of the change," she said. “We're making history right now, and how we choose to react to social justice issues will determine the world we live in."  

#TeachLove
Both girls feel truly blessed to have gone on this journey and agree that Martin Luther King's dream of a more just, tolerant and inclusive society can be realized if more people would simply be kind and teach love.      

“King's philosophy was to love your enemy. You can still love people and be kind, but be assertive and stand your ground on what you believe in and make sure you're doing the right thing," explained Maddie. “Boys Town is a prime example of teaching love through the nurturing and guidance we get here, in our Family Homes and from each other."

Megan and Maddie are hopeful more Boys Town youth will be invited on future tours so they, too, will be inspired and empowered to change the world.​

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