Generations of Activists Inspiring One Another

Generations of activists, including Civil Rights Freedom Rider Thomas M. Armstrong and recent Naperville Central graduate Indya Smith-Johnson, talk about how they both are experiencing different, yet similar situations when it comes to activism and the ongoing journey towards racial equality.

Drawing from Past Experiences

“During the 60’s there were 70,000 individuals who had tried to make change.  They were not unlike you,” said Armstrong to Smith-Johnson, encouraging her to continue to make a change.  “Whatever they can do, you can do.  You may even do it better.  You also mention that you like to sing.  Sing words of hope and who knows?  Through your singing, who knows who can inspire.”

“They went through similar things to what we’re going through and they were activists.  They were someone to look up to and someone to work off of and see things that we can do differently to get higher levels of success,” said Smith-Johnson.

Armstrong continued to offer words of encouragement.  “Have the courage.  Take the time to study the change that you want to make.  Don’t go arbitrarily, take the time to study.  Learn, educate yourself but not only that but educate your co-partners as to what’s going on and why you want to do it,” he said.  “Secondly, know yourself.  Know what you want to do and don’t necessarily follow someone else.  Make up your mind and what you want to do.”

Taking Steps Towards Future Change

When asked about his reaction to the recent protests lead by local young people such as Smith-Johnson, Armstrong joked about not being able to join them.

“It made me wish my feet didn’t hurt!  [laughs],” he said.  “I’d like to thank you.  I appreciate what you’re doing and keep in mind that you have a lot of support out there.  And once you’ve taken the path to become an activist, it stays with you.  It never leaves you.”

“I want you to understand, how many people you have touched and inspired by the work that you’re doing and I think you’re just beginning,” host Dana Davenport agreed, touched by both generations of activists that appeared on this episode.


Finding Common Ground is focused on important current events and how they impact our diverse population. We are many voices of one community, often with strong opinions on every side of an issue. Here, through courageous conversation in the interest of discovering collaborative solutions, we hope to find out common ground.

All guests and viewers are invited to acknowledge the four agreements to courageous conversations:

  1. Stay Engaged
  2. Speak Your Truth
  3. Experience Discomfort
  4. Expect and Accept Non-Closure
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