Endurance is not the same as acceptance. When an injustice historically and contemporarily happens to Black Americans or to any group of human beings in the context of racial oppression, it is always a matter of struggle to resist the pain and agony of the injustice by the sheer endurance of the will to be free.
For the past 40 years, the members of the Wilmington Ten and our families have struggled for justice, sacrificed by serving long prison sentences unjustly, and endured irreparable physical and monetary injuries. Yet, for the seven members of the 10 who are still alive, faith in God and a commitment to freedom, justice and equality for all remain intact.
Wilmington, N.C. four decades ago was still confronting the issues on public school desegregation. Black American children in particular were facing institutionalized racism as was the case in many school districts across the nation.
But the battleground over equal education and civil rights in general for Black Americans in the port city of Wilmington in the wake of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968 took a turn beyond the violence in the aftermath of King's death and nonviolent marches for equality. What happened in Wilmington in 1971 would set the violent stage once again in American history when people of African descent would be indiscriminately targeted for vicious and brutal reprisals for daring to seek voting rights and a quality education as the federal government headed by President Richard M. Nixon looked the other way.
The Wilmington Ten were falsely accused, framed-up, arrested, tried and sentenced to a combined 282 years in prison in 1972 for daring to stand up for the rights of black school children. Now, thanks to the leadership of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), a national and global campaign has been launched to encourage North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue to issue a "Pardon of Innocence" to the Wilmington Ten. A formal petition was just submitted to the governor's office for her consideration.
Justice for the Wilmington Ten will benefit more than 10 people or 10 families. Justice in this case would mean rejecting racially-motivated prosecutorial misconduct and purging racial injustice from the so-called "criminal justice system." That will benefit all Americans and as well others throughout the world who cry out for freedom and equality.
It is important for young people today to know more about the Wilmington Ten and other political prisoner cases. Too often our youth take too much for granted. They have not been adequately educated about the price that has been paid by prior generations of Black Americans. We have made progress, but we still have so much more to achieve and accomplish.
From the Trayvon Martin's case back to the Wilmington Ten, we know that we have to be vigilant. But most of all, we cannot afford to let anything or anyone break our spirit no matter what the difficulties, pains or hardships that are placed in our path. Justice is the consistent pursuit of what is right and fair.