Transcript For Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons And Lucas Johnson On Deromanticizing The Civil Rights Movement And Rediscovering Its Humanity

Krista Tippett, host: We have entered a stretch of 50th anniversaries of civil rights milestones. I worry that these are in danger of romanticizing, sanitizing, our memory of that movement to the point that we can’t take in its deep relevance - its accessibility as a model for how we grapple with social change in the present, on race or anything else. Professor Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons and Rev. Lucas Johnson are antidotes to that. On a Wednesday evening at NPR Headquarters in Washington D.C., they opened up in a cross-generational conversation on the many legacies this movement has left for us all....

Lisa Sharon Harper: Thank you so much. My name is Lisa Sharon Harper. I have a few thoughts and then I have two questions. And the first thought has to go back to our earlier conversation about Black Power and recently in our history we have three films that I think really do a beautiful job and a powerful job of explaining the African-American male's experience in America and why that call for Black Power would actually rise out of the soul of black men. "12 Years a Slave," "The Butler," and "Fruitvale Station," all three of which you just see immense, immense amount of control that are put on black men in particular.

Now, flash forward to today and we have the Voting Rights Act being chucked with the section four being diminished. We have the Stand Your Ground and Stop and Frisk. We have mass incarceration. The question is in today's context, what can nonviolence -the non-violence strategy of the '60s, teach us about how to engage with issues like immigration reform, like economic disparity like the president talked about recently? And then what are the ways that the '60s Civil Rights Movement, maybe that context isn’t like this context? And so what are the challenges that that strategy would meet in this current context?