College Students Say They Are the Next Generation of Civil Rights Leaders

Students hope that change can start with people like them.

Posted: 10/16/2011 12:53 PM EDT
George Washington University Students Maronel Stewart,  Janae Johnson and Dara Smith are proud of the memorial and hope to see a change in education.

It may not have been the Martin Luther King's historic March on Washington, but Sunday afternoon was a day that will remain in the hearts of many forever.

 

“Dr. King belongs on this mall because he said what we could become,” President Obama said at the dedication ceremony of the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial. “As tough as times may be, I know that we will overcome.”

 

Thousands cheered as the 44th president and first Black president addressed the crowd, and among them were college sophomore Maronel Stewart, college junior Janae Johnson and college senior Dara Smith.

 

The three young ladies traveled from George Washington University to be represent not only their families, but the 25 charter members of their chapter of the National Council of Negro Women at the university.

 

“We are actually honoring someone of color — and someone of my color — on the national mall, and it is truly an honor,” Johnson said. “It’s amazing to me that something like this would actually happen in my lifetime, amongst the first Black president, all within the area in which I live.”

 

During the ceremony, Obama acknowledged that times aren’t nearly as bad as they were 50 years ago during Dr. King’s time. The students agree, but they also hope to see change in their generation, too.

 

“The biggest civil rights issue of our generation is education. Luckily we’ve gotten this far, but it’s sad to know that there are generations after us that might not have the same opportunities because there is such an achievement gap,” said Smith.

 

Most of all, they hope that the change can start with people like them.

 

“We owe it to our community to be out there, volunteering, tutoring, doing what we can to make change in our communities because it we don’t do it, nobody else will,” said Smith.

 

Just as Dr. King spoke to campuses across the nation, the students hope that they can inspire change in their future, too.

 

“We are the next generation of civil rights leaders. We are going to make sure that the GWU is aware of the goals and missions of those who have come before us. There is still a lot to be done and we have a different struggle to fight,” said Stewart.

 

To contact or share story ideas with Danielle Wright, follow and tweet her at @DaniWrightTV.

George Washington University students Janae Jonson, Dara Smith and Maronel Stewart(Photo: Danielle Wright/BET.com)

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