The Children of SNCC
Like their parents who were in the civil rights movement, many of their offspring have also focused on changing the world.
''Your world,'' Joyce Ladner warned the children of her old comrades in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) as they celebrated the 50th anniversary of their movement in Raleigh, N.C., last week, '' is far more complicated than ours was.'' True enough, but that hasn't stopped the offspring of those graying organizers from charting their own course to social change.
Now ranging in age from their late teens to their early 40s, the SNCC children may have had no other choice but to march in their parents' activist footsteps. Echoing a widely held sentiment among the younger generation, Maisha Moses, daughter of Janet and Bob Moses, director of SNCC's Mississippi project during the 1960s, describes how her world was shaped by movement history: ''We soaked it up and we grew up feeling like we were part of it.''
For some, like James Forman Jr., son of SNCC's late executive director, the movement's ethos became a family lifestyle. His parents, he says, ''actually organized our family life in the same way SNCC was organized. Whenever we had a problem, we had a meeting. The meetings were long and very contentious. You get the picture.'' The result, he says, is that the children learned, ''You can't just talk about change, you have to live it. The idea that we are the ones we are waiting for is something we were all raised on.'' Or, in the words of Fisk University social scientist Tarik Smith, son of SNCC activists Frank and Jean Smith, ''the only ones out here doing things are the ones who are out here doing things.''
Some of the young generation, like Cleveland Sellers' son, Bakari, have gone into politics. He was elected to the South Carolina legislature in 2006 at the age of 22. Many others have become educators. The younger Forman, for example, co-founded (with David Domenici, the son of former Republican Sen. Pete Domenici) the Maya Angelou Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. It focuses on helping at-risk young people to get back on track and find a career. The program now serves 600 students at three campuses. Last year, 90 percent of its graduates went on to post-secondary education programs.