By Chana Ginelle Ewing
In 2014, when we mention the names Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner to millennials we’re sometimes met with the infamous *blank stare*. The oft-maligned generation of young people, like every cohort before them, is determined to change the world on new terms, i.e. “social good” work perhaps at b-corps or social enterprises that quantify “social impact.” As a foundation rooted in the social justice leadership of young people, we see an opportunity to advance and enrich millennial ingenuity by elevating the lessons of the past.
That opportunity begins with a personal tragedy turned iconic national story. Andrew Goodman, a 20-year old college student from NYC’s Upper West Side, joined the Mississippi Freedom Project, a multi-organizational “Peace-corps style” civic engagement effort, in the Fall of 1963. He attended a training in Ohio with over 1000 college students from across the U.S. in the Spring of 1964. And on the first day of the Mississippi Freedom Project, June 21st, 1964, Andrew and fellow civil rights workers, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner went missing. Beyond the political significance of three inter-racial and inter-faith young men murdered for no other reason than working to empower African-American citizens, the narrative of an inspired young person joining an organized and collaborative movement for change, continues to resonate.
The Goodman family decided that taking personal responsibility for turning the tide of injustice and harnessing the power of democratic action would become central to the work of The Andrew Goodman Foundation. Voting Rights is a unifying issue exactly because none of us can afford for our democracy to malfunction. And on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer and the Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner story, Voting Rights is once again up for debate.
#ForwardFreedom, a multi-year campaign commemorating the 50th anniversaries of Freedom Summer 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, works with partners to amplify history while creating innovative opportunities to impact the present. To increase awareness of the anniversaries and our #ForwardFreedom campaign, The Andrew Goodman Foundation turned to a new platform, thunderclap.it. Following a quick and simple strategy, The AGF enabled voting rights advocates within and beyond our community, to step forward and together on voting rights; our collective voices created a storm that reached over 410,000 people! The AGF Thunderclap strategy harnessed millennial organizing tools: email marketing, text messages, strong graphics and compelling copy to forward a message that honored the historical significance of the date (6.21.64) while urging our networks to remain vigilant in protecting the right to vote.
As the terms evolve, the structures for social action expand and the fights for equality and fairness intersect geographically and demographically, Freedom Summer is a powerful example of when multi-organizational might meets personal responsibility. That great Project of 1964 provides a template for how like-minded groups can rally around a single cause and engage and empower young people to act. #ForwardFreedom, through partnership, digital advocacy and events, will continue to raise awareness, transforming the millennial *blank stare* to a moment of acknowledgment and possibility.
About the Author: Chana Ginelle Ewing connects the dots between storytelling and strategy. In addition to developing content strategies, Chana has launched new products and websites, social media programs, video campaigns and audience engagement initiatives for non-profit, media, technology and b2b brand clients. An innovative storyteller, Chana ignites business strategy, marketing and new program/product development for forward-thinking companies and organizations. Find her practicing transparent and authentic storytelling at @chanaewing.