Last week, I had the pleasure and opportunity to hear Angela Davis deliver an amazing lecture titled, “Power to the People! Power to the Imagination!” In a room full of 700 students, staff, faculty, and community members, I stood in awe of the message we were all receiving as Angela reminded us to “Be realistic. Demand the impossible.”
There were a lot of key issues Angela covered during her speech – some of which I am still trying to process in a way that leads to action that is productive and meaningful. I think for the most part, we all have had a discussion with colleagues and peers about community. Whether it was collaborating on a divisional project or rallying together for a cause, how we advocate for justice looks completely different across the board. Reflecting on the Black Panther Party, Women’s Liberation, the Stonewall Riots, and countless other movements, I realized two things: 1) How interconnected these communities were and the amount they achieved in solidarity and 2) How important community was in achieving justice.
When learning about social justice, especially serving as an ally holding privileged identities, it can be hard to build partnership without doing our own knowledge on the issue beforehand. There is the constant pressure to “do your own work” that is needed but often separates key players that want to be in community and want to demand justice right along side us. When we talk about building solidarity with the purest intentions but focus on a single issue without regard or acknowledgment of intersectionality.
As Angela mentioned during her lecture, “the personal is political”, a hallmark statement of the feminist movement – but even in that movement we need to remember that queer womyn and womyn of color also need to be a part of conversation, otherwise we are simply making use of “the masters tools that will never dismantle the masters house”. I say that as an example to emphasize how interconnected our lives can be, how personal and political identity can become, and how important community is to our future. “In order to understand the dilemma, we have to understand its connection to other underlying issues.”
As we all continue to immerse ourselves in dialogue with students and one another, do not forget the value of community. We all have passions and issues that unite us and provide opportunities for others to build awareness, knowledge, and skills. I ask that the next time you seek to educate yourself or “do your own work” to invite others into that space with you as well. This work is messy and convoluted in the most beautiful way – and it will take the power of the people to not only create change, but also imagine its possibility.
“We always have to act as it were possible to change the world.” – Angela Davis
– Cobretti Williams