Wham, BAMN

“We who grew up attending high schools that we know were segregated, the schools we know were created to make sure we could not go to the best colleges ...” shouted Cass Tech graduate Brandon Whitney to the cheers of an estimated 50,000 mostly college and high school students attending the BAMN rally in support of affirmative action at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial on April 1.

“We are going to fight this war without shooting a single bullet,” Whitney pledged to the youthful crowd that had rallied on its own and left the adults and the more familiar civil rights leaders at the Justice Department.

Whitney, now a Virginia Union University student, may have been at the podium, but Detroiters were prominent at the rally, thanks to the Michigan contingent of the Coalition To Defend Affirmative Action And Integration And Fight For Equality By Any Means Necessary, BAMN for short. (The name is a reference to one of Malcolm X’s most memorable coinages.)

BAMN, the local NAACP and other supporters were responsible for more 150 buses from metropolitan Detroit. Organizers said that Cass Tech, Renaissance and Martin Luther King Jr. high schools alone accounted for about 1,000 marchers.

In addition to hoping to sway the Supreme Court to preserve affirmative action programs like U-M’s, marchers noted the size and youthfulness of the protesters and looked to the future.

“This is an opportunity to rise up and stand and fight again to build a new civil rights movement,” shouted Shanta Driver, recent Wayne State University Law School graduate and BAMN spokesperson. “A handful of us at white schools, ain’t going to get it,” Driver said to the cheering crowd.

“Today we march to defend affirmative action. Tomorrow we march on to make affirmative action real full integration and equality!”

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