DC area youth carry on a legacy of activism

Published: Jul. 20, 2016 at 11:15 PM CDT
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The 22nd class of Operation Understanding DC is preparing to lead.

The organization brought 23 young African-American and Jewish teens to Meridian as part of a pilgrimage through civil rights battlegrounds of the 1960s.

The youth met Wednesday night with Roscoe Jones, Sr., the organizing director the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) about his involvement.

"Like I tell the young people, I got involved at an early age as a teenager. I got involved and I decided then I wanted to make a difference in life because I didn't like what I saw. And I wanted to make some changes and the only way to make chances is get involved," said Jones.

Just over 50 years after civil rights activists marched from Selma to Montgomery, these young people are retracing their steps.

“We really believe if the students can walk the path of history and touch the face of history then they can shape where that path goes next,” says Avi Edelman, program director of Operation Understanding D.C.

Since 1995, OUDC has helped empower more than 500 Washington-area youth to foster dialogue and to speak out on racism, anti-Semitism and prejudice in any form.

Activities Thursday include talking with Bill Ready, Sr., a well-known civil rights attorney and visiting the gravesite of James Chaney, a Meridian man who was murdered, along with New Yorkers Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, in 1964. The trio was working to register black voters in the area and also investigated the burning of a black church in Neshoba County the day of their deaths.