As part of the College’s inaugural Civil Rights Mini Term in his senior year, Pete Haviland-Eduah ’10 walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where in 1965, hundreds marching for black voting rights were beaten by police, an event that became known as Bloody Sunday.
It was then that he fully understood what the oppressed will endure in the pursuit of justice.
“They marched anyway, because they wanted to and because they had to,” he said after the term. “There was no other option—living in oppression was not an alternative.”
In March, after several policing incidents that drew public reaction and on the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, Pete was back on campus, reminding students of the sacrifices people make today and urging them to bring change in their own way.
Haviland-Eduah is the former deputy press secretary for U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. He is national policy director and communications director for Million Hoodies for Justice, a national organization aimed at empowering young people of color to work against mass criminalization, racial bias and gun violence. He is pursuing his master’s in public policy from the University of Michigan.
One of the ways to bring change, he said, is by using technology—including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter—to share stories of injustice.
“You understand how these tools work,” he told the students. “You can tell these stories and you can make changes.”
Students should feel especially empowered to bring change simply because they are relatively free of obligations, he said. “Don’t let the fact you’re students scare you. That should empower you."
“Just like John Lewis and the other Freedom Fighters, what gave them the power was that they had no families or mortgages or kids that they had to feed. They could go out there and put it all on the line, and you guys are in the same situation."
“So you might have a paper that’s due, or some reading or some math homework,” he said. “But in the grand scheme of life, that paper may not be all that important.”
“Social justice is going to last forever. This is the world we’re going to hand off to the next generation.”
At Union, Haviland-Eduah was president of Student Forum and a member of the football team. His visit to Union was coordinated by Prof. Melinda Lawson of History, director of the Civil Rights Mini Term.