While visiting Montgomery, Alabama, in spring 2016 with Western Kentucky University's "Power, Privilege & Democracy" class, I had a chance to interview a man who lived through the civil rights movement and marched across the bridge from Selma to Montgomery. One of the things that I can never forget was what he told me about young voters: "Young voters do not have it as bad in today's generation then it was 50-60 years ago," he said. "We need to come together and continue the march against selfishness, hatred, and inequality towards our people. We need to take it back to church and form meetings, because that was our foundation for strength."
Coming into Martha's Place Buffet and Catering in Montgomery with my class, I felt at home. There was mouthwatering chicken, savory collard greens, sensational yams and cooling sweet tea that you would think came straight from your grandmother's refrigerator. After several plates, I decided to try to connect with some of the people in the room. There I met Mr. Dumas and asked if I could interview him about his role as a foot soldier. Mr. Dumas did not hesitate, and he said yes.
Much of my discussion with Mr. Dumas had to do with Power, Privilege and Democracy, the subject of our class. One of the first questions I asked was, "Why is it important to vote?" The first few words set the tone for the rest of the conversation: "It is important because so many people lost their lives," he said. When he said that, I imagined what my ancesters and older generations in the U.S. went through to allow all of us the freedom of expression -- not only to vote but also to live free with nothing binding us physically and mentally.
I asked Mr. Dumas: "How important is it for young voters to vote? Why in this generation does it seem like we are not tuned in to what is going on around us in this society?"
"You know, you all never had to go through the back door to get served food and y'all never had to go through a separate bathroom," he noted.
"I think that the younger generation needs to take pride in themselves," he said later. "The young generation needs to exemplify togetherness."
Getting to know Mr. Dumas help me understand that I have work to do, and that it is up to me and my contemporaries to continue to search our "why's" in life, to be political engagers and to take action in our community to benefit those that need help throughout the struggle. The trip to Alabama made me appreciate history and those who fought for civil rights and voting rights for African-Americans and other minorities.