According to a study conducted by Pew Research in 2016, about 6 in 10 teenagers claim that more reformations are needed in order for there to be more equality in America, however the other 30 percent says that it is enough. With that same data, 4 in 10 Blacks are doubtful the country will ever make those changes.
The truth is in the data and the statistics, and it is prevalent that these issues in America are not going by unnoticed.
As a generation, this is the first time that a generation has not had to actively fight for their rights pre-Trayvon Martin, where a light was begin to show on the inequalities and how unfairly Blacks are treated in America. This was also able to be done because of the technological innovations like cell phones, social media and the internet, which allows news from non-reporters to travel just as swiftly as journalists.
“The commemoration ceremony doesn’t really change for me each year. Sometimes we have the drums, the drape drums. The band will March, some years we have more of the families of those that were killed.” Reflecting on the commemoration ceremony as it progresses over time, Cleveland recounts past experiences.
“Mr. Thomas got shot seven times. Right here in his mouth and got all of his teeth knocked out. He went into the military and had a tough time.” Thomas was a participant in the demonstrations to desegregate the All-Star bowling alley, and ended up having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, also classified as PTSD. Thomas was put out of the military because of his PTSD and began drinking and getting involved with drugs. After finding a church home, he dropped to his knees and decided to dedicate his life to God.
Each year SCSU has a ceremony where it commemorates the actions of the Orangeburg Massacre. This ceremony takes place so that it reminds the students and community about what happened and how there has been progression, but there is so much further to go. In addition to that, it also has the tone that pain is real and time cannot elude a wrong that was never acknowledged.
Amber Watts, a former student of Savannah State feels, “Ceremonies such as this one is so vital to our community. Not only does it show resilience and a strong background of self-awareness, but it also adds assurance to our those who came before us, like our ancestors, that we have not forgotten the sacrifices they made for us. Furthermore, this shows how strong we are and how we are not going to give up until there is justice. The men and women affected by this tragedy, dead or alive, deserve that much I believe.”
Allowing for a couple moments of silence to see if it brought upon any more thoughts, Watts begins, “The Orangeburg Massacre is just another example of Black people in America wanting justice and equal rights, but instead left with a bigger injustice to deal with.”
In 2017 the victims and the families of victims are still waiting for justice so their loved ones can rest in peace. Cleveland Sellers is still fighting for the Orangeburg Massacre to be acknowledged as what it was, and for it to be implemented into the school systems. When driving past the bowling alley, there are no historical markers nor anywhere else in town.
Emanuel Mitchell, a former Clafin University student said, “I didn’t learn much about the Orangeburg Massacre while in college, but I grew up in Orangeburg so I learned all about it in middle and high school, and it’s a sad part of history that is definitely overlooked by most.” Taking a moment to reflect, “You know it’s only acknowledged as a SCSU thing unfortunately… It’s something that should definitely be taught at Claflin and surrounding schools, but I don’t believe it is. There’s just not enough notice of it, as far as anniversaries, etc.”
Through further protests and events it is the hopes of Cleveland Sellers that this will not be the reality of students for much longer. Urging people to continue to come together is more than remembering what happened, but hopefully it will bring recognition so it could alter the future.