This Year’s Public Service Project: They Had a Dream Too
Michele Hyndman is an Assistant Editor of The Affiliate and practices in the Washington, D.C., office of Ernst & Young.
According to the ABA YLD Chair, Kelly-Ann Clarke, the theme for the 2009–2010 year is “Creating Lasting Connections, both Personally and Professionally.” Throughout this year, all events, conferences, seminars, and even this year’s public service project will be focused on promoting this theme. They Had a Dream Too: Young Leaders of the Civil Rights Movement is this year’s public service project. Encompassing the theme for the year, this public service project connects us to the past in order to create a better future for everyone.
2008–2009 ABA YLD Public Service Project
“We are so excited about this year’s Public Service Project, They Had a Dream Too: Young Leaders of the Civil Rights Movement,” said Public Service Project Co-Coordinator Kara Nyquist. “Our discussions will begin in Birmingham and conclude in San Francisco. Our team will be promoting at the ABA YLD conferences this year a video and curriculum and also a related speaker series to have discussions about American Civil Rights.” Theprogram is designed to challenge and inspire all of us and help build future leaders in ourselves and others. Itfocuses on young leaders who made a change in the world between 1950 and 1960 by fighting for equality for all under the law.
This year’s ABA YLD public service project, led by Kara Nyquist and Keathan Frink, kicks off in Kelly Ingram Park, Birmingham, Alabama in October 2009 in remembrance of the young leaders who were attacked when they stood up for their future. During the first week of May 1963, Birmingham police and firemen unleashed police dogs and fire hoses on civil rights demonstrators, many of whom were children, in the streets bordering the Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham. The violence against these children and other activists raised a nationwide public outcry and helped tip the balance in favor of the Civil Rights Movement.
This year’s project will include a speaker series, in which lawyers and other speakers will discuss basic rights of Americans, and wide distribution of the film,: They Had a Dream Too.
The Film: They Had a Dream Too
They Had a Dream Too: Young Leaders of the Civil Rights Movement initially began as a public service project for high school students, produced by the Texas Young Lawyers Association (TYLA) and made possible by a grant from the Texas Bar Foundation. As part of the project, the TYLA produced a twenty-eight-minute film featuring personal stories and images from the civil rights era in the United States. It highlights the achievements of a few of the thousands of young people who made a difference in the 1950s and 1960s when the struggle for civil rights reached its peak. The film also contains a component about civil rights struggles that have occurred since the 1960s and challenges young people to become leaders today.
Featured events in the film include: the Greensboro Four, the 1960 Greensboro, North Carolina, lunch counter sit-in; the 1950’s Swim-In, in which a young girl and her brother entered an all white pool on a hot summer day while the crowd chanted, “We don’t want you in our pool,” in Columbus, Ohio; the Little Rock Nine, the first nine black students to go to Central High School, a formerly segregated public high school in Little Rock, Arkansas; and the Tinker Protest of the Viet Nam War, in which a school board in Des Moines, Iowa, tried to block students from wearing arm bands in silent protest against the war.
The film’s interviews include people who as young adults helped change not only their world, but also the world as a whole. The film draws from oral histories and photographs. These oral histories provide unique insights into different facets of the American experience. Taken as a whole, these stories make up a broad mosaic of the quest for freedom and equality in America.
The film was so widely acclaimed, that it was nominated for and won an Emmy Award. That Emmy sits by the desk of the 2009–2010 ABA YLD Chair Kelly-Ann Clarke, who helped make the film a reality. The film can be viewed at www.theyhadadreamtoo.org.
Making a Difference
The Civil Rights Movement, in general, was accompanied by much civil unrest and popular rebellion, not only by adults, but also children. In fact, many of its leaders and most vigorous activists were young people.
Although the Civil Rights Movement achieved many of its legal objectives—equal rights under the law for all citizens—practical issues of discrimination remain. Even if every person is, by law, equal in the eyes of the state, inequality can persist because of discrimination within society, such as in the workplace, which may hinder civil liberties in everyday life.
One goal of this program is to teach young people that they can make a difference in their communities and society in general. If they see discrimination, injustice, or inequality, they have the power to do something about it and to effect a positive change.
“As leaders we hope that all affiliates consider sharing this project at a local level throughout the country,” said Nyquist.