During Black History Month, people celebrate those who brought unity to a nation by fighting for the rights of black Americans. People like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X are known on a national level, but locally, the Rev. T.J. Jemison Sr. came to Baton Rouge and helped organize the city’s first civil rights bus boycott.
A statue of Ted Jemison Sr. will be erected in his honor at A.Z. Young Park near the Louisiana State Capitol. His son, Ted Jemison Jr., aims to retell his father’s story by continuing his father’s legacy. He is currently working on a screenplay of his father’s journey. He wants to show how compromise and negotiation can find solutions, told through his father’s story.
“He was a very strong civil rights leader, a man of honor and distinction, a family man,” Jemison Jr. said. “He believed in the people, and most importantly, he was an ace negotiator.”
Jemison Jr. said his father believed in helping people and always had a positive outlook on humanity. He raised his children on the philosophy of helping others in a time of need instead of being selfish or self-centered.
“His goal was to create the best of humanity and believed in sacrificing yourself for others,” Jemison Jr. said.
Jemison Jr.’s father grew up in a time where racism and segregation was at an all-time high, and he wanted to do something about it. When Jemison Sr. came to Baton Rouge, he caught King’s attention, and they began to work closely together. Jemison Jr. said his father was almost 10 years older than King and provided him with words of encouragement during hard times.
“You have to seek out someone who will speak out for you when you can’t speak for yourself,” Jemison Jr. said. “My father was a visionary, and he could see what was on the horizon and what was coming. You might not be fully satisfied at first in what you accomplish, but you keep working on the gains you have made, and once you start that, your going to finish successfully.”
Jemison Sr.’s boycotts led to the desegregation of buses in Baton Rouge. Jemison Jr. said it’s up to college students to continue the fight of bettering the U.S because the future relies on the next generation standing up for change.
“As you study to better yourself you have to remain a part of the world at large,” Jemison said. “On a daily basis, think about what can you do to make significant change for the betterment of all. I think any college student has to have that as part of their regimen when dealing with success.”
Jemison Jr. said he has high hopes for the current generation. He said college students should not forget history, nor should they repeat it. Working toward greatness and bettering the community is key in making change.
“As you walk around campus, you should want to seek out the best in everyone,” Jemison Jr. said. “I think it’s very important to remember this life goes by so fast and you’re only given a few chances to make change. You have to make your own achievements, and to make things as good as possible, everyone should wake up with that thought of making a better day.”