The Beatles and Segregation: A Message for the Younger Generation

The Beatles and Segregation: A Message for the Younger Generation

By Dr. Kitty Oliver

From a Race AND Change perspective, the story recounted in Ron Howard’s documentary The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years about the band’s refusal to perform for a segregated audience in Jacksonville, FL, during the height of the Civil Rights Movement – and my decision to be one of only a handful of Black youth to attend the concert – has resonated with so many people for a reason.

It offers us a rare chance to talk about race beyond the traumatic events of the day – not just because of them.

As an oral historian and researcher on race relations committed to ongoing dialogues across cultures I have found that we are well-versed in conversation about troubling racial times.  The themes of prejudice and discrimination, oppression and resistance, and how to keep discouragement from overcoming goodwill seem to reoccur in every generation.

If those of us in the generation of the first wave of Beatles fans have learned anything, though, and have any message to give to younger people, it should be this: Life is a continuous presentation of problems to confront, come to terms with, or solve and we are products of survivors who endured even more and put their hope in us.

In the Beatles era of the mid-1960s the conversation was also about violent, repressive times. The four young musicians acted spontaneously from conscience and took a risk – and so did I. And now, over 50 years later, their stand is still remembered, and who would have predicted that my personal decision would lead me from segregation to international cross-cultural work?

The Race AND Change community is launching a new project to acknowledge, honor and award members of the younger generation today who are also taking a stand for what is right and just and serves humanity in their everyday lives – those who are moving out of their comfort zone and building bridges across differences despite resistance, since every culture has a negative name for people who do.

These are “Agents of Race AND Change.” They need encouragement from us and we need them.

Watch the Race and Change Facebook Page for updates on how to identify and nominate young people who are modeling a different conversation: how to touch the world in a positive way during troubling racial times.

Please “Like” the Race AND Change page on #facebook. http://www.facebook.com/raceANDchange #raceandchange

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