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Picking up the torch: Leading the way on civil rights

Posted at 9:56 PM, Feb 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-02 22:56:28-05

Civil rights icons from the 1960s have paved the way for today's activists.

For over 10 years, Bennie Walsh the president of Temple's NAACP chapter has been taking what he has learned firsthand from those leaders. He's now using it to build meaningful connections in the community and spark change while inspiring the next generation of leaders.

Back in the 1960's Bennie Walsh was just a kid, but as a person of color, he faced racism hatred and issues much bigger than himself. Early on in his life, Walsh was driven but lacked direction.

"I have not always been on the right side of trying to make it as a young man, I threw rocks at windows and destroyed stuff," Walsh said.

However, wise words from his aunt, who was the president of Kansas City's NAACP Chapter at the time, steered him in the right direction. At just 13 with the words of his aunt echoing in his mind, he began marching and protesting for his rights.

Walsh said, "I was a young kid but my auntie put it in my heart that you have to do something for your people."

Fast forward to today, Walsh is using the teachings of his greatest heroes, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X, to inspire change in Central Texas.

"They are my heroes once they came together it made a difference it made a great difference in my life," said Walsh. "Whatever is going on in the community I want to make sure I have my footprint on it especially if it has to do with voting rights."

Younger community members are now following their lead.

"A lot of us realize and recognize that the change we wanna see isn’t going to happen just by protesting but really getting involved and knowing what is going on in our local government," said Terris Goodwin, the Founder of Wake Up Temple.

Wake Up Temple is a local non-profit that was founded to promote nonpartisan civic engagement.

Goodwin said, "We don’t care who you vote for our goal for wake Up temple is to really just empower you to do so and exercise that right. When we do or don’t have turnout from typically underrepresented communities then we see that reflected in the results of the election and ultimately if we don’t participate in that process then I don’t feel that we have a right to criticize or be upset."

Goodwin says she and her team are ready to continue the fight.

"I really truly believe that this is the time for our generation to kind of pick up that torch and keep it running," said Goodwin.

Walsh said, "To see young people follow that path and do what is right for the community, it brings joy to my heart."

It's a fight Walsh has been fighting for most of his life, one he says he will continue until he can't anymore.

"In this day and age, It bothers me today that we are still dealing with racism," Walsh said. "I have to follow what the Lord says so until he says it’s time for you to quit I’m gonna keep doing his work."