PHOENIX — Peaceful stances against unequal civil rights have been successful throughout history and nonviolent movements can lead to meaningful systemic change.
Reflecting back on several landmark moments can act as a guide for action in these tumultuous times.
Protests are happening in hundreds of cities across the nation. The images a stark reminder of where we’ve been but also how far we have left to go.
“There’s no more room to just sit by the side, it’s time for people to be active participants and really get themselves involved in the issue,” said Jacob Ali Wertheimer.
Wertheimer is the grandson of the late Mohammad Ali, who passed away four years ago Wednesday.
Both he and his mother Khaliah have watched the death of George Floyd ignite a fury once found within the late Patriarch after winning an Olympic gold Medal for the US in 1960.
“To come back and find that he could not simply be served a meal because of the color of his skin was very deeply painful to him,” said Khaliah Ali Wertheimer.
Like we’re seeing now, Ali turned to activism.
Peaceful protests to create permanent change. To eradicate prejudice and Jim Crow laws of the South.
“He totally understood the power of speech and effective communication and he was gifted with that consequently as well,” said Khaliah.
“It’s not time to be a passive participant, It’s not enough to just not be a racist, you need to actively use your voice and use the privilege that you have been given in this country to make a change, and really make it a place for all people,” said Jacob.
There are dozens of examples of peaceful protest throughout history.
Gandhi refusing to pay British tax on salt in the struggle for India's independence. The Montgomery bus boycott against racial segregation on public transport in 1950s America. Both considered historic victories.
“I think that is the shining example of how people can organize peaceful protests over a long period of time,” said Dr David Hinds, an Afro American Studies professor at Arizona State University.
Hinds says the reason for their success can be summed up simply as this.
“It is the righteousness of the movement, the moral standing of the movement, the demands of the movement,” said Hinds.
But can it work again?
He says its working so far because people are paying attention.
However the next step must be to present solutions and force local lawmakers to act.
“Twenty years into the new millennium, have we lived up to the promise human equality, and I think what the protests are doing raising new old questions, the very questions that Dr King asked, they very questions that Gandhi asked, the very questions Mandela asked in South Africa,” said Hinds.
“And also remember that this fight is going to go on long after the protests, we have to remain civically minded, we have to vote, big things little things, fill out that census form, can’t help you if your not counted, but I think that this needs to become a way of life,” said Khaliah.