For many elders who participated in the black liberation movement of the ’60s and ’70s, the burgeoning Black Lives Matter movement is history repeating itself — in a good way.

Benjamin Chavis, famed civil rights leader and president of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, emphasized Thursday the need to support the youth on the front lines during the first of 10 lectures in a series at the Thurgood Marshall Center for Service and Heritage in Northwest D.C.

The debut lecture was sponsored, developed and created by the Thurgood Marshall Center Trust (TMCT) and is one of a series of events and activities presented under the umbrella of the Thurgood Marshall Social Justice Resource Center. TMCT President Thommie Yearwood said the Resource Center will come fully online in early 2016.

Chavis spoke of the significance of the lecture series being held at the Thurgood Marshall Center.

“Thurgood Marshall was much more than the first African-American on the Supreme Court. He was a freedom-fighting lawyer and intellectual,” Chavis said. “Everybody talks about the Brown decision, but you have to look at all of the struggle before that.

“What does Thurgood Marshall have to do with Black Lives Matter? Everything,” he said.

Sam P.K. Collins, journalist and founder of All Eyes On DC, a grassroots public affairs program, joined Chavis for his discourse, insisting that the movement must be all-encompassing for everyone who is part of the African diaspora.

“We need African unification all across the world,” Collins said. “We have to realize that we are all one. Our unification and our salvation is on us.”

Chavis contended that Black Lives Matter was birthed out of the insidious disregard for black life by law enforcement, the judicial system and people who are sworn to uphold the law. However, he said, many problems the black community faces can be solved by themselves.

“I’m concerned about what is going on in Chicago,” he said. “Our mark of excellence is not about taking somebody’s life, that’s playing right into the enemy’s end game.

“The little brother got killed in Chicago. … You are going to take this grown man’s son because you can’t get the grown man. You’re a coward, and it needs to be said,” he said.

Chavis subsequently called out black clergy in Chicago.

“Black preachers in Chicago need to stand up more. I can’t understand why we’re not out there more,” he said. “These are our children. We have to stop the self-destruction of our people. We have to get the guns and drugs out of our community, not the police.”

Chavis reiterated that the establishment of America has no concern for the interest of black Americans.

“Just last night, Democrats and Republicans voted against Obama’s climate change bill. You ask, what does that have to do with us? Sixty-eight percent of our people have asthma,” Chavis said.

He also acknowledged that the connotations of the Black Lives Matter movement scares many people, which is a good thing.

“Black Lives Matter disrupted the consciousness of America, even with some black folks,” he said. “I want to remind you [that] when black power, came it was met with the same uncomfortableness. Prior to ‘black is beautiful’ and ‘black power,’ black was a negative term and not a powerful term. This is another ‘black power’ — in your face.

“Quite frankly, some of us need to be shaken up, some of us are too comfortable,” he said. “It’s not just a hashtag, it’s a movement. I’m here not to judge our young people, but to be encouraging. It has always been historically necessary for us to get in the face of our oppressors. … We cannot afford to have young people marching by themselves — we have to march with them, and stand with them.”

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Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is presently the CEO & President of the National Newspaper Publishers Association and the President of Education Online Services Corporation (EOServe Corp), the world’s...

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