Stepping Forward: A Legacy of Solidarity with Justice

To mark Black History Month: A Century of Black Life, History and Culture, The AGF explores today’s Movement for Black Lives in a series of posts from Hero Citizens within our community and beyond. Sylvia Golbin-Goodman, Executive Director, kicks off the series.

I continue to follow the Movement for Black Lives and I am proud of today’s Hero Citizens, mostly led by young people of color, who increasingly capture the attention of America. This resurgence of people standing up to injustice and demanding fair treatment by their government is the best hope for saving our democracy.

As Executive Director of The Andrew Goodman Foundation, I am deeply immersed in civil rights issues. My husband’s brother Andrew Goodman, was one of three Civil Rights workers murdered in 1964. These three young men, two white and one black, Jewish and Christian, represented a cross-section of America: they were diverse in their racial, geographic, religious and economic roots — yet they died together — victims of state-sanctioned violence and social mores that codified racial hatred.

Long before that fateful trip to Mississippi, Andy was horrified by racism and oppression. He believed in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. To him, the idea of government “of, by and for the people” was both logical and just. Growing up in the Goodman household, democracy was sacrosanct and privilege was no excuse for inaction. Upper middle-class, white New Yorkers, didn’t relate to “not my fight,” when considering their neighbors struggling in Appalachia or in the Jim Crow south. So when Andy asked to volunteer for Freedom Summer, his parents, Carolyn and Bobby Goodman, could not say no.

As we watch the events of 2015 unfold, many of us see modern-day versions of old themes emerging and coming into focus. Jim Crow has morphed into a system of mass incarceration, voter suppression and economic and educational inequality. The white hoods and violent tactics of the 60’s have been replaced by reasonable suits who, today, espouse voter ID laws and provide economic and social support for a racist system that empowers a few and crushes the many.

However the story of today’s Movement is told, our current crisis is not only about anti-black racism. This crisis is about every citizen’s willingness to stand up for her neighbors, and to be an active participant in democracy. As a nation, we are coming to a turning point. Will we continue to evolve as a democracy — where the voice of all citizens matter and government is the servant of the people — or will we fall into the pattern that has previously dominated civilization, where a class of rich and powerful individuals and business interests control the wealth and power for their own benefit?

As the movement for Black lives continues with new tactics and a new cohort of young leaders, one must ask oneself: what is my role? The Andrew Goodman Foundation, which continues Andy’s legacy of active caring through it’s Vote Everywhere Program*, invites you to step forward and declare what you are willing to do to create a more peaceful, just and sustainable world.

We step forward for voting rights, equality and social justice. Won’t you join us?

About the Author

Sylvia Golbin-Goodman is the Executive Director of The Andrew Goodman Foundation and a member of its Board of Trustees. She leads the Foundation’s programming and developed the Hidden Heroes Awards.