JACKSONVILLE — Editor's Note: This is the fourth in a four-part series in honor of Black History Month.
Civil rights leaders paved the way for future generations of Americans, even sacrificing their lives during the tumultuous era of the 1950s and '60s.
Decades later, the challenge is to ensure youths keep that dream alive so that those who come after them experience that legacy, say two local educators.
“The challenge today is to encourage our youth to not settle for where they are today. We need to keep showing them the importance of education. It's important to keep this dream alive so that they will continue to have equality and know our culture,” said Jacksonville High School coach Colby Jackson.
His colleague Davin Sarda-Nelson agreed.
“It is important to keep the dreams of our past alive so that we do not allow the struggles of our past to hinder us again,” he said.
Because our modern lifestyle fosters “immediate satisfaction, it has become all too easy to forget what it takes to earn what you keep, and if we forget how to fight for our right then our right could be taken from us,” Sarda-Nelson added.
The key is “not allowing our youth or future to forget where they came from and the struggles that (civil rights leaders) overcame for us. They need to feel a sense of ownership and gratefulness in their history so that they are proud to hold onto it,” he explained.
Sarda-Nelson teaches chemistry at the high school and serves as a football, track and boys' basketball coach, while Jackson coaches high school football and girls soccer.
Jackson cites Jackie Robinson, the first Major Leage Baseball player to break the color barrier that had segregated the sport for more than half a century, as his favorite black historical figure.
“He broke down racial lines while demonstrating patience and composure,” he said. “I try to learn how to be patient like him.”
Sarda-Nelson, on the other hand, said he has always been inspired by people like George Washington Carver, Benjamin Banneker “or any other ground-breaking scientist that has led the way.
“This may come from the fact that I always wanted to know how or why something worked the way it did. Reading stories about these pioneers gave me inspiration to continue on my path to getting my own degree in science,” he said.
However in this day and age, it is those parents who sacrifice to ensure their children succeed in life, Sarda-Nelson said.
“For me, partly because of my profession, it is the mother who is working hard to raise her children the way that they need to be raised, or the father who didn’t walk away when it was time to become a real man,” he said. “(It's) those young men and women who take care of their responsibilities and remember that tomorrow is a blessing only because it was earned yesterday.”