Socially Aware of Injustice
written by: Miya Ingram & Justin Newsome
On Wednesday, February 8th, 2017, the University Community Collaborative POWER Internship hosted a Social Justice POWER Panel at Temple University at 3:00 pm. The panel consisted of four captivating facilitators that help black and brown young people from Philadelphia through art, liberation work, and literature while also advocating for social justice. The panelist were Mike O'Bryan, an advocate for youth rights; TS Hawkins, a well-known author, poet, and educator; Shani Akilah, a liberationist; and Koby Murphy, a youth organizer, and musician.
Building up people of color has always been a passion for Shani Akilah and TS Hawkins. As black, queer women, they have always felt the need to give back to their own people. “I grew up in a lineage full of educators", says Hawkins. Using her Education background, she has traveled around the world as a poet, using her voice to send messages about black rights. Akilah was on the same path forming The Black and Brown Workers Collective to “work toward giving a voice to minorities of color and using art to express yourself in a way that has an impact on the world.” Gathering other people with the same passion, she plans to build up places where black and brown people can work together.
Koby Murphy and Mike O’Bryan both have used their creativity to show the hardships of their life. As an underprivileged child, O’Bryan had but no choice to educate his mind. Being the only one in his family to graduate high school and college, he has used music to show and tell the stories of youth throughout the city. Murphy has been involved with The Philadelphia Student Union since high school. He remembers recording mixtapes and handing them out to different students across the city to spread positive messages. Now being employed by the program that helped him become the artist he is today, he tries his very best to give inner-city kids a platform to be creative and showcase their talents and to stay off the streets.
Throughout the panel, the POWER interns asked a series of questions regarding social justice within the community and how each facilitator connected their own art to making a difference in the youth community. One of the questions to the panelist was, "How do you use and connect your art with social justice topics/issues?" Hawkins responded by saying she "infiltrates “white” spaces"; learning the jargon and mindset while passing it on to black and brown youth so they can know how to navigate throughout the world." Murphy said that using his talents with hip-hop and rap can bring students together and spread positive messages around the city are ways he continues to make a difference.
Although the conversation was based on social justice, each facilitator shared ways that we as black and brown teenagers can make a difference, while also sharing life changing experiences that made them the person they are today. The final question of the panel was, “What advice you would give to the young people?” “Know your worth”, Hawkins said. “Remember your purpose", said Akilah. “Find something and learn something you like”, said Murphy. And finally, “Put yourself and your health first", said O’Bryan.
In summary, the event was perfectly balanced with a spoken word from Hawkins, social justice commentary, and Q&A’s from the audience that toggled between this past election to college. The event opened the eyes of many inspiring artists, photographers, film producers, and journalists. With the advice given from the panelist, there should not be anyone, that was in that room, that left feeling uninspired and not driven for success.