The Preservation of Justice
written by: Bruce Bennett & Julia Jones
On February 8th, The University Community Collaborative POWER Internship hosted a Social Justice POWER Panel that took place at Temple University. The panel consisted of Mike O’Bryan (advocate of youth rights and project manager of SMASH), TS Hawkins (international author and facilitator for the WERQ Radio and Podcasting Internship at the Attic Youth Center), Shani Akilah (Liberationist and co-founder of the Black and Brown Workers Collective), and Koby Murphy (Youth Organizer with the Philadelphia Student Union), who are avid proponents of social justice.
“I infiltrate "white" spaces", starts Hawkins, helping to set the tone for the panel. She stated she studies how they operate, turns it on its head, and teaches the youth varying ways to navigate in the world. Akilah follows up with “There’s is an art in dismantling what does not serve freedom.” Initially, Akilah went around dismantling systems of oppression but soon learned that “you cannot dismantle without talking about what you are going to build.” Hawkins and Akilah both had very different responses but they’re working towards the same goal. O’Bryan stated “If I'm absent, the uniqueness that I can contribute to you is absent"; that’s why he believes that our personal health is so crucial to any movement we seek to be a part of. When asked what he does to serve social justice in his community, he stated he uses mediums such as photography and music to convey a message. Murphy, also, thinks that creativity is the key to keep people listening to what you have to say.
Whilst discussing prominent social justice issues dealing with the chaotic and changing environment of today, the panelists touched on the current president. For O’Bryan, the world shifted once Donald Trump became a presidential nominee. He says that he was raised in a time where “All of the big lies that covered the world started to crumble…and now we are at a reckoning point.” Hawkins disclosed that she came from a long line of educators and has known for a while that the world is nothing but propaganda, but the recent presidential election reaffirmed some things. “The lowercase KKK were always in place and now they have a mouthpiece.” Everyone on the panel agreed that in these trying times one of our biggest concerns is us; brown folks being resold. Hawkins says “I’m tired of black and brown bodies being sold under different language”, and echoing that same note O’Bryan retorted that “it’s our human capital that’s always been in the hands of other people.” They all agreed that somehow we have to take ourselves back from the systems we’ve been thrown into that continue to oppress.
When the question, “What advice do you have for your students?” was posed, everyone on the panel had something to say. “My advice to you is that for those of you that are for social justice put yourself squarely first.” O’Bryan said. Through his life he learned that his personal health was very important, and without that intact it’s hard to get things done. Hawkins said “My advice is always to honor your worth, and I say honor your worth because you already know it...you are Kings and you are Queens.” Her biggest goal is first and foremost, keeping us alive in a system that is so against us. Then, Akilah stated “Be kind to each other because…imma say it, patriarchy, misogyny, colorism... we are fish swimming in a fishbowl of dirty water, I challenge you to once a day spit that water out.” Akilah continues to connect it to how they found sisterhood in black women even though white supremacy pushes against it with negative images of when black and brown women gather. Murphy’s advice was more goal-orientated, he wants us to constantly ask ourselves “Where is it that I'd like to be?” and constantly work towards trying to get there. In other words, find the light at the end of the tunnel, and claw your way there to make your life worth the struggle!