- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 31, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A group of young activists fighting for racial justice around the country met in Nashville this week to strategize at a historically black college tied to the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

In a news conference on Wednesday at American Baptist College, the young people, who were primarily African-American, expressed optimism about their struggle and the “Black Lives Matter” movement that has sprung up around the killings of two unarmed black men by white police officers in Missouri and New York.

Ron White is a 24-year-old activist from Nashville who has been travelling back and forth to St. Louis since the shooting death of Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson, Missouri.

White said the racism he saw there “broke my heart,” but he believes that his generation can end it. The group of young people from Ferguson, Chicago, Atlanta and elsewhere that he met this week helped to give him hope that things can change.

“If not now, then when?” he said.

Ethan Viets-VanLear, a 19-year-old activist from Chicago, said he sometimes feels like he wakes up every day in a battlefield. But the retreat helped him to realize, “We are on the winning side.”

Diamond Latchison is a 21-year-old activist from St. Louis with a group called Freedom Fighters. She said she was also inspired by the elders she met this week, people who have spent a lifetime fighting for civil rights and social justice. They include Iva Carruthers, a trustee of American Baptist College and the general secretary of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, a nonprofit organization that promotes social justice education.

Carruthers has been working in Ferguson and organized this week’s retreat as a way for the activists to rest, recharge and strategize for the future at the small, scenic campus overlooking the Cumberland River. The young people said they did not come up with a specific plan for next actions but left the retreat with plenty of ideas.

American Baptist President Forrest E. Harris said the college was happy to host the retreat. Teaching about social justice is “part of what we do every day,” he said.

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