The screening of civil rights activist Whitney Young’s documentary “*The Powerbroker: Whitney Young’s Fight for Civil Rights” *took place at the White House Tuesday afternoon.

First Lady Michelle Obama addressed the small audience which consisted of a few of Young’s family members along with students from eight middle schools and high schools from Loudon County, Va. and Washington D.C. The eight schools included Potomac Falls High School, Park View High School, Dominion High School, Friendship Carter Charter High School, Kipp DC College Prep, Two Rivers Charter Middle School and Washington Latin Charter Middle School.

The students were invited to watch the documentary about Whitney Young which was directed by his niece, Emmy Award winning director Bonnie Boswell, and participated in a panel discussion. A few panel members were Boswell, President and CEO of the National Urban League Marc Morial, and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) member Khyla Craine.

Boswell came up with the idea for the film more than a decade ago. She raised more than a half of a million dollars to fund the project.

“Many people I approached never heard of Whitney Young, but I knew it was an important story,” said Boswell. “My uncle was a bridge-builder during the civil rights movement.”

Young was the executive director of the National Urban League and president of the National Association of Social Workers back in the 1960s. While with the National Urban League, he fought for major corporations to hire more blacks. The organization grew from 60 to 98 chapters across the country.

Young was also an advisor to Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. He was essential in making socioeconomic opportunities equal for whites and blacks. Young died in 1971 at the age of 49 due to a heart attack he suffered after swimming in Lagos, Nigeria.

The screening of this documentary comes as the country commemorates the 50thanniversary of the March on Washington.

“What this documentary shows us is that there are so many unsung heroes in our history whose impact we still feel today,” said Obama. “We are here because of that struggle, I’m here because of that struggle.”

The First Lady graduated from Whitney M. Young Magnet High School in Chicago, IL in 1981. Obama also shared with the students words of wisdom for them to hold on to.

“Whatever you do I want you all to keep pushing to be the very best at whatever you choose,” she said.

“One of his quotes that I love he said, ‘It is better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.’”


Talib Babb

Special to the AFRO