Americans in the Civil Rights Movement

“Shaking Hands with the Future” is celebrating its 7th year of inspiring the youth about...
“Shaking Hands with the Future” is celebrating its 7th year of inspiring the youth about hometown role models.(WTOK)
Published: Feb. 20, 2022 at 2:50 PM CST
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MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - “Shaking Hands with the Future” is celebrating its 7th year of inspiring the youth about hometown role models.

The organization exposes young people to adults that look just like them. Well, this year they are exposing them to a group that doesn’t look like it had an impact on the Civil Rights Movement.

Many people take the time to acknowledge African Americans who have made a difference in American history, year after year in the month of February.

“This year we want to talk about everybody who inspires us, supports us, champions us, mentors us, and just has our back. They don’t look like us. The people that we should hope to inspire and grow up to be like us should not look like us. It is about crossing color lines, religious lines, political lines, and any other lines that you can draw across. It is about coming together as a human race to make things better,” said Founder of Shaking Hands with the Future, Fannie Johnson.

Another group has endured some of the same unfortunate treatment in the history books.

Some white Americans played a part in the equality moment. Lloyd Gray’s father Duncan Gray was on the frontlines of the Civil Rights Movement.

“My father Rev. Duncan Gray Jr. was the director of the Saint Peters Episcopal Church in Oxford at the time of James Meredith’s integration of the University of Mississippi. He got involved because he thought it was his duty as a pastor to proclaim the gospel by attempting to bring people together, to make opportunities available for people that otherwise we’re not allowed to do the things of basic rights of American citizens,” said Gray.

Gray recalls events that his father went through during the Civil Rights Movement.

“The Civil Rights Movement was in full sway at that time. The Klan was involved in murderous violence in Mississippi including in Meridian. He worked to rebuild black churches and synagogues here that have been bombed. He also worked with black leadership locally to start programs like head start and to help successfully integrate the schools. He was very involved in reaching across the color lines in the community,” said Gray.

One local pastor said the movement was not just the lonely work of the African American community, but the all-around effort of the American people.

“One of the things we had in our favor was the Jewish community who really supported the Civil Rights Movement, and the Mennonites also supported the movement by giving monetary support. It was to the point where they received backlash equally as well as the blacks. Their homes were bombed, they were staked out, and they had a lot of things that happened to them because of their conscious objection to the treatment of minorities,” said West Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church Pastor, Odell Hopkins.

With all the church and cross burnings, hate, and segregation Pastor Odell Hopkins said we have come a long way.

“Those things that were meant to hold us back - the burnings, the bombing, and the discrimination really catapulted us and motivated us to go higher and to do better,” said Hopkins.

Fannie Johnson said it is time we acknowledge all parties involved in the Civil Rights Movement to educate the youth, and those around us this Black History Month.

Johnson also gave out a pin of two hands shaking, for her annual program.

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