Local activists share same passion generations apart
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - One started nearly six decades ago, while the other is currently embracing her intensity. They are both black women, separated by generations who are passionate and activists for Civil Rights. In honor of Black History Month, we took a closer look at their journeys and found that through the years the fight for change, hasn’t changed.
Their feet - sore. Their voices - hoarse. Their struggles - substantial. All in the name of Civil Rights. Kathlyn Kirkwood’s passion for activism started at 17, on April 4, 1968.
“My sister and I were at the jewelry counter and we overheard that he had been assassinated”, said Kirkwood.
It was the death of Dr. King that transformed Kirkwood from a Memphis high school student, to an activist for Civil Rights. What Dr. King fought for, now became her fight.
“As far as when the light bulb went off, the passion. The determination that I MUST become involved. I MUST become active in this process. I MUST help to change the world. It happened when Dr. King was assassinated.” she said.
As Kirkwood sat draped in the original blanket she was given to keep warm on those Freedom Marches, she reflected on the issues that drew her into the streets. Civil rights, police brutality, Equality and criminal justice.
“At 71, I’m just as much an activist today as I was when I was 17 years old. It made me realize that I can’t say that I had a calling, but I knew that I could. And I felt that I must make some changes and differences and the only way to do that was to become active and use my passion to try to create a different kind of world.” Kirkwood said.
“We feel like we shouldn’t be censorized to things like racial disparity and what it means to be white in America and what it means to be black in America.” said Jasmine Teague.
Teague is a 17-year-old activist who learned about Civil Rights from her granddad.
“In his 70 years of living, he’s never went to school with a white person. And I feel like and I realized these times weren’t that long ago.” Teague said.
He helped build churches in Atlanta, the cradle of the Civil Rights movement and met icons like Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King. Speaking with him made her realize something.
“Some of the people who hated people like me and people like my grandfather are still living to this day. And it makes me realize how much we need to push for change within our society.” said Teague.
“I want to see an America where diversity and inclusion exists. Equity within all forms whether it be social, cultural, governmental and political.” She added.
From Dr. Martin Luther King Jr to George Floyd, and from Jasmine Teague to Kathlyn Kirkwood. The names may have changed but the struggle for Civil Rights, police brutality, equality and criminal justice within the African American community, they say has stayed the same. But with every chant, every step, every struggle it’s the hope that’s remained unchanged. And so, they fight.
“The world is just as troubling if not more so today than it was 30 years ago. We’ve made some wonderful progressive changes. You can eat anywhere you want. You can stay at any hotel you want. But there are still a lot of areas that are. There’s a lot of subtle, covert actions and behaviors that say we really haven’t made that much progress.” added Kirkwood.
Kirkwood has written a children’s book called “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round”. The title taken from a Freedom Song. It documents her life growing up as a teenager during that time. It’s her way of giving back while instilling her passion in others.
“My dream is to be able to crisscross the United States teaching and educating. Birthing young activist. That’s what I try to do all the time.” Kirkwood said.
Teague has dreams of attending college while continuing her activism. I asked Mrs. Kirkwood where she thought the world would be in 50 years. She says she hopes that the world would come together work to towards the positives for mankind. But as she looks at the world today. This is why she continues to fight.
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