Civil rights pioneer Diane Nash told a campus audience that the movement in the 1960s was similar to hot metal — malleable when the metal was hot, but wait too long and the metal was immovable.
Nash closed Black History Month events at Grand Valley with a presentation February 28 in the Kirkhof Center that was sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Affairs.
While a student at Fisk University in Nashville, Nash coordinated the 1961 Freedom Ride from Birmingham, Alabama, to Jackson, Mississippi. She was not among the original Freedom Riders, Nash said, but she stepped in while the metal was hot.
“When the buses were burned in Alabama and the original Freedom Riders beaten so bad that they couldn’t continue,” she said, “I recognized that it was critical that the ride not stop.”
If the Freedom Ride had stopped, she said, the message would have been sent that violence can stop a nonviolent movement.
Nash said the bus rides and civil rights movement have left a legacy that is available to people today “who want to solve social problems.” She urged audience members to follow her principles of “Agapec” energy, a word Nash devised to mean waging war using energy produced by love, not weapons.
Nash also said she admired the spirit of today’s college students. “People need to have a belief that change can be made, and they need to be given specific duties,” she said.