“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” — MLK
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, only a few months after Samuel Ephesians Hammond Jr., Delano Herman Middleton, and Henry Ezekial Smith were killed during the February 8, 1968 civil rights demonstration on the campus of South Carolina State University (SCSU) in Orangeburg. We celebrate their lives and vow to never forget the sacrifices that have been made to move our world forward.
We cannot bury or forget what happened in Orangeburg. The wave of hatred and oppression that swept through campus eventually ended the lives of Dr. King and Robert Kennedy within the year.
I’m bringing attention to the tragedy as SCSU and the greater community involved is still working to repair the damage that was done to the lives of those affected. Every year, the University holds a commemoration ceremony to recognize February 8th.
In 2019, the National Football League (NFL) Network produced and aired a 30-minute documentary, "Orangeburg: A Town. A Team. An American Tragedy." The segment featured first-hand accounts from SCSU football players, including my father, Bobby Eaddy. While my family has processed, coped with, and dealt with the aftermath of the tragedy for more than 50 years, the attention brought to civil rights issues today raises the stakes.
Our world is challenged with many geo-political complexities, so I will be with you to remember 911. I will be with you on Memorial Day. I will be with you during the Women’s March. And I will be with you to make sure that the Holocaust is never forgotten. But I will raise my voice and remind the world that we cannot move past the high profile killing of African American men in the United States. It will always be a part of the our history, and it will forever be stitched into the fabric of our society.
You are probably not aware that I joined Facebook while doing work as a consultant to the Federal government. I was responsible for launching and managing some of the first Federal social media programs. Over the last 10 years, I’ve been producing digital content for the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs, working to honor our fallen heroes.
I understand that the arts and humanities and history are about preserving and advancing our culture. Education is about knowing and understanding our world—especially universities, which lead us in understanding the totality of the universe in which we exist: from business and science to technology and healthcare. The value that our network of colleges and universities bring to the table is incalculable.
Since its founding in 1890, SCSU has educated 30,000 students and has served as the primary state university for African Americans during the era of segregation. It has produced thousands of military officers and many other leaders across industries.
We should celebrate life and our successes, but we also have a responsibility to the three students who lost their lives in Orangeburg just months before Dr. King was assassinated. Approximately 30 others were wounded demonstrating for their civil rights, including my father, Bobby Eaddy. My mother, Patsy Eaddy, was also on campus at the time.
As we honor the life and ideals of Dr. King, let us not forget or marginalize the many people who shared in his vision.
Derran Eaddy is an award-winning communications practitioner based in Washington, DC. He is a former U.S. Senate Fellow and served as a State Commissioner in New Mexico. He is serving as an Ambassador to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.