Civil rights activists bring message of empowerment to Central Islip youth summer program

Chanteé Lans Image
Wednesday, July 12, 2023
Historic civil rights leaders share stories with next generation
Civil rights activists who took part in the 1963 Children's Crusade in Birmingham, Alabama spent their Tuesday speaking with students at Ralph G. Reed Middle School.

SUFFOLK COUNTY, Long Island (WABC) -- Three women in their 70s from Birmingham, Alabama helped changed the world as teens during the civil rights movement. They are now changing the lives of some Long Island middle schoolers.

Civil rights activists Pastor Gwendolyn Cook-Web, Gloria Washington Lewis-Randall and Gwendolyn Sanders-Gamble visited a summer youth program at Ralph Reed Middle School in Central Islip on Tuesday.

The women were part of a thousand young marchers, and they were members of what would become the Children's Crusade.

"We were willing to go. We were willing to march," Lewis-Randall said. "We were willing to die for what we believed in."

The program, organized by the Legal Aid Society and the NAACP, taught the students about how the activists pushed for changed.

"I think it was pretty brutal what they were doing to people back then, and it wasn't fair at all," said Aria Sloan, a seventh grader.

The activists were not only there to teach the students about the past, but also to give them lessons for the future.

"You are somebody. Don't ever allow any individual to ever let you think that you're not," Cook-Web said.

Their message resonated with the students.

"It felt empowering, it boosted my self-confidence a lot," said seventh grader Kaycia Russell.

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