YOUNGSTOWN (WKBN) — Wednesday marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
It changed the lives of millions of Americans. And here in Youngstown, the anniversary was marked by hundreds of people on Tuesday.
It was standing room only at the Historical Center of Industry and Labor in Youngstown. There were lots of big names there, including Congressman Tim Ryan, State Sen. Joe Schiavoni, and even Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel spoke.
But this night was bigger than any one person.
There was no question in Latasha Saulsberry’s mind about where she would be on Tuesday.
It was important that her son and daughter hear about the Civil Rights movement from those who experienced it first-hand.
“I’m hoping that they will learn a little bit about maybe some things that their grandparents might have went through in the Civil Rights era,” Saulsberry said.
Six-year-old Lyric agreed with her mom.
“It’s your life and you need to learn more,” Lyric said.
The learning came from folks like Al Bright, an artist and professor emeritus at YSU. But long before that, he was a young boy, thrown out of a Youngstown city pool because of his skin color.
“I have no room in my heart to carry bitterness. I have room in my heart for love and respect for others,” Bright said.
He has spent his life encouraging people to better themselves, and use their experiences to make the country stronger.
“Everybody has the right to express themselves. That’s one of the beauties of our nation. And some of the things that we espouse are in fact stupid. But our nation as a whole can’t be stupid,” Bright said.
Despite the great strides the country has made since the 1960s, many of the speakers on Tuesday were concerned about the direction of the country now, saying that there is an ongoing attack on civil rights.
“Some of that’s our fault. And I say our as in the collective community because when you don’t vote you allow people to get elected whose agenda is directly opposite of what can be actually your benefit, your livelihood, and your rights. You gotta vote,” said Jaladah Aslam, president of the Youngstown-Warren Black Caucus.
It is a lesson Saulsberry hopes her kids will help carry on.
“Stand up for what you believe in and just to pass this on to maybe one day their future children,” she said.