written by: Timmy Lawrence, Julian Maestre & Keyarah Murphy
On Wednesday February 8th, 2017 the University Community Collaborative POWER Internship hosted a Social Justice POWER Panel at Temple University. The panel was for people to ignite an intellectual conversation about the current plight of minorities living in the United States. On the panel was TS Hawkins, an international poet and author/facilitator of the WERQ/Radio Podcasting & Youth Making Media Internship at The Attic Youth Center; Shani Akilah, co-founder of the Black and Brown Workers Collective (BBWC); Mike O'Bryan, an advocate for youth rights and social change; and Koby Murphy, a youth organizer with the Philadelphia Student Union.
To start off the panel, Hawkins performed her poem, #SuiteReality; this poem spoke about the struggles of young black girls in society. After Hawkins’ performance, the moderators began to ask the panel questions. The first question posed to the panel was for them to explain how they used their art form to bring awareness to social justice. Akilah answers, in their big and powerful voice, “I dismantle what does not bring freedom. To dismantle, I practice the art our ancestors had of drumming, to hold on to my history and culture." The audience applauded to their answer. Hawkins responds, "As a black, queer, woman living in this nation, I knew the world was filled with propaganda but I didn’t realize how complacent I had become until Trump was sworn in. What gets me through this time is channeling my art to be a protector for my students and motivating them to paint the world the way they want to see it.”
Another short answer quote from Hawkins was, “I love to infiltrate “white” spaces…” We took this to mean she wants to show society what she's really capable of. She's tired of having to prove herself over, and over again to go through an unnecessary amount of steps to get to where she has to go, only to be shut down solely due to her skin tone. Akilah, further mentioned that they “cannot dismantle without talking about what you are going to build; there is art in dismantling.” They said growing up that they “did not feel like they had a tongue to speak, like it was snatched.” Akilah wanted to build a space where minorities can speak freely and take a direct action against white supremacy in a positive way; that's why they created the Black and Brown Workers Collective. In conclusion this social justice panel was developed by great youth role models; giving an immaculate sense of acceptance and leadership for other youth of color.