Through this blog, I am going to be very honest and open. I want to share what I learned from the Summer Teach-In and how much it affected me once I was back home in Florida. I used to think I was somewhat of an activist; someone who read and kept up with the daily news and worldly events, believing that was enough. It wasn’t until this Teach-In that I realized I was far from being an activist. I had a lot to learn and most importantly, I needed to learn to never be afraid to speak out and fight for what I believe in.
The very first day of the Teach-In, my fellow Teach-In participants and Teach-In team, all met at the Center for Civil and Human Rights where we were introduced to a wonderful range of amazing speakers who have contributed tremendously to the world of Social Justice. One of my favorite parts about the Teach-In was having the opportunity to listen to speakers such as Deborah Richardson, Stacey Abrams, Nancy Boxill and Rev. Dr. Bernard Lafayette, Jr. I could go on and on about the speakers but it would eventually lead to a hundred-page blog. As I sat and listened to each speaker, I noticed that each of them carried a sense of commitment and bravery to whatever issue they were fighting for. It was a beautiful thing to witness, because as I heard their stories, I never felt a gist of fear or indecisiveness. They fought to bring awareness to social justice issues that have affected our world and the citizens who inhabit it. By the third day of the Teach-In, I wanted nothing more than to be just like them.
Another wonderful attribute of the Teach-In was how the Teach-In team brought students from different parts of the country together to learn how to build a campaign. I remember the first time I sat with my group to speak about State violence; It was a group of ten of us who had different views and opinions on how to get started, what issues to focus on, and what we had hoped to accomplish from our campaign. We were introduced to the Five Shifts of Social Change that consisted of bringing Awareness, Shift of Definition, Behavior, Engagement and Public Policy. It was an open forum for our voices to be heard and to also speak about the issues we care deeply about. I became friends with intelligent students who were not only powerful activists, but they had already accomplished great things in their communities.
During a break session, all of the students had a chance to view the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Exhibit along with a self-guided tour of the Center for Civil and Human Rights (NCCHR) and reflection. There was a moment during the Exhibit where I had stopped to watch the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; I saw a man who was not afraid to accomplish the impossible; To speak out and fight for a better world and never back down from any obstacles or challenges. Through the exhibits I was also introduced to other activists who put their lives on the line every single day in order to bring awareness to the racism and inequalities they endured; I read about women who were the same age as me, who risked being arrested, beaten and harassed just so they could fight for their rights and be treated as equals. If you are ever in Atlanta, I highly suggest stopping by for the tour of NCCHR and the Exhibit.
Being an activist to me, means not being afraid of the unknown. It’s not being afraid to step out of your own box to look at the world as a whole. Attending this Teach-In and interacting with the speakers and students taught me just that. This Teach-In was meant for students like you and I to create campaigns and to become involved in Human rights issues affecting our communities. Bernard Lafayette stated, “People are our greatest teachers, not books.” Put yourself out there, get involved and meet people who are making changes. Eventually, someone will look up to you and follow you because you are the one making changes.