As part of the 2016 celebration of the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Pritzker School of Law communities welcomed legendary civil rights and peace activist Diane Nash to talk about her participation in the 1960s civil rights movement.
“If it were not for the courage of a few like Diane Nash, the freedom of many like us would be jeopardized. We are forever grateful,” Dr. Yancy said.
During her speech, Nash shared many of her experiences and encouraged listeners to not only honor King, but also to pursue causes they are passionate about to generate social change.
“We honor and pay homage to Martin Luther King every year, but we need to continue developing non-violence and bring about social change. The non-violent movement of the 1960s left a legacy that’s available to us. We can use it to solve many social problems that we have today,” said Nash.
Several times, Nash referenced agapic energy, an idea she conceptualized during the 1960s civil rights movement. The term comes from the Greek word agape, which means “brotherly love.” Nash said that agapic energy – the energy and love produced by humankind – was how she approached the civil rights movement.
“People are never the enemy. Unjust political systems, those are the enemies. Unjust economic systems – enemies. Attitudes, racism, sexism, ignorance, emotional and mental illness – those are the enemies. If you recognize that people are not the enemy, you can love and respect the person at the same time you attack the attitude or action of the person,” Nash said.
Genevieve Umeh, a second-year medical student at Feinberg, said Nash’s advice on kindness and how to relate to people of different countenances will be helpful when working with patients.
“She advised that any kind of change has to come from the community, and we should not rely on a single leader before we take action. I hope I can apply this in my career to take action and challenge any unjust situation. We can change our community, and it takes a concerted effort to say no to injustice,” Umeh said.
The Northwestern community celebrates the civil rights leader’s achievements during a week and a half of events following Martin Luther King Jr. day. Northwestern’s Day to Recognize the Efforts and Achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King (DREAM) committee and the Black Law Students Association organized Chicago campus programing including presentations and panels with civil rights activists, a day of service and an inaugural oratorical contest.
More details about Northwestern University events are available here.