It’s June 23rd, 1957 when six brave Durham kids, along with their pastor Reverend Moore, decided to enter Royal Ice Cream on Dowd and Roxboro street. They sat down in the “White Only” dining area and when told to move, they refused and all seven of them being arrested. The students had the intention of being heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, but unfortunately, they refused to hear it.
The most common misconception about these sit-ins is that they were created by adults – but the protestors at Royal Ice Cream were youth — students in their teens and early twenties. Most articles and memorials on the Royal Ice Cream protests just mention “Reverend Moore and six others.” Many in the Durham community at the time — both the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Negros (now DCABP) and white leaders and officials — dismissed the youth’s action, as misguided and “amplifying racial tensions”. But it was this event that sparked youth and others to take action in the Greensboro sit-in and eventually nationwide.
Still today, we as youth are often not recognized for our civic engagement and new ideas and often forget that is our right to be able to speak up for ourselves and take charge of our future. We may be intimidated at times, but so were the six young teens who were criticized for their action by the white community and their own black community and the thought of going to jail or worse. But they still did it anyway because they wanted to take charge of their future and believed they had a new way of moving the civil rights movement forward in Durham and the country.
And that is why I am writing this: I want youth to know about our history in civil rights and other community movements and know that we can do that today. You don’t necessarily have to do a sit-in or risk jail, but there are plenty of ways to voice what you want in your future.
Some things you could do are:
- If you’re in school, talk to your history professor or someone who’s passionate about the community and ask them for help on creating a club based on youth voice
- Come volunteer with us at Kids Voting Durham! By volunteering, you’ll get a better understanding of what it means to have your voice be heard as well as help others learn that they can do the same!
- On June 14 help KVD create our 2019 Youth Candidate Guide for Mayor & City Council and be a leader or participate at the Kids Voting Durham. Youth Candidate Forum to let future leaders know what you think and ask them how they will engage with and lead for Durham youth.
- Check out some other organizations in Durham like Youth Justice Project, Made in Durham, DPS BarberShop Talk Series, and Durham Youth Commission
- Head over to the National Youth Rights Association to see some of the impact youth has made in today’s era
Let’s make sure that we as youth get in the history books from now on so we can show the world that our future starts with us.
And to parents; if you remember these times, talk to your kids about being engaged citizens and support them in their ideas of wanting to make change happen.
Do you know of a young person whose civil rights and civic engagement efforts should be in the history books? Tell us about it at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919.560.7321