By Tamica Jean-Charles
Before a black girl’s hair is cornrowed, her hair is washed, combed out, braided and straightened with a hot comb.The crowd laughed as Tamika Mallory, renowned activist, explained the “two-day process” in her speech on Feb. 20 at the Graham Center Ballrooms.
Mallory visited the University as a part of the Black History Month lecture series hosted by The Black Student Union. The theme for this black history month is “Hidden Truths: Reclaiming My History.” BSU aims to address current racial politics and look back on their own history.
Mallory is a massive influencer in modern-day revolutions. As a young teen, Mallory began protesting alongside her parents under Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network (NAN). She first joined the organization at 11 to learn more about the civil rights movement. Her focus eventually narrowed on police violence, gun control and women’s right.
25 years later, Mallory continues to be a leader in today’s biggest protests.
Most importantly, Mallory is a pioneer behind the Women’s March. The international march started as a way to establish the need to fight for equal rights for all individuals. The first Women’s March occurred on Jan. 21, 2017 and continues to be the largest coordinated protest in U.S. history.
Mallory welcomed the crowd with a few words and spoken word poem performed by her son, Tarique.
In her speech, Mallory spoke about modern-day activism and how millennials need to step up in the face of injustice. Her powerful words assert the importance of how impactful millennials can be in protests today.
“This generation is a new generation of freedom fighters, but you need to know that you are binded to a contract to do better,” said Mallory. “We are responsible for using the tools. Look at what Dr. King and others were able to do. Now we have these tools at our disposal, we must do better.”
Mallory reiterates the importance of intersectionality on all platforms. When fighting for justice within one group, some may only fight for that one particular group and neglect others.
Every fight is our fight, according to Mallory. Her vow to stand in solidarity with other groups is echoed in the work she does every day.
Fighting white supremacy in this age of protesting was another point Mallory made. For white women in particular, can hop out of any movement once they’re no longer affected. Women of color have done this before-work with white women only for them to leave and not stand back, according to Mallory.
“It’s a good time to organize. All across the world, people are waking up to systemic injustice. We’re having the opportunity to educate people about movements that we have been in and fighting for a long time,” said Mallory.
Gabrielle Williams, the secretary of FIU’s Black Student Union, concurred with Mallory on her stance.
It’s important to understand how far injustices can go.However, finding it out can be tough. But, for students like Williams, one of the first steps in protesting is to challenge preconceived mindsets.
“We’re still fighting the same fights, but just in a different form. I never thought about that aspect before,” said Williams.”Now with that new introduction, you can look at things differently and approach them and say hey, have you ever challenged this thought?”
Mallory touched on the issue of mass incarceration and its effect on children and adolescents.
Children of color, account for 70 percent of in-school arrests and are two times more likely not graduate, according to pbs.prg
The facts and words given by Mallory resonated within Madison Rodriguez. As a high school teacher and recent FIU grad, Rodriguez works firsthand with our nation’s future. She sees the school to prison pipeline in effect and strives to change that.
“For me and the work that I do with my kids, it’s not only about helping them understand their history,” said Rodriguez. “But also helping them understand that there need to be tools and there need to be strategies in order to help them beat a system that was never designed educate nor foster their empowerment.”
Mallory is one of the minds behind of the Power To The Polls movement. Power To The Polls strives to influence voters impacted by voter suppression all across the country all throughout 2018. Mallory, along with the other founders of the Women’s March, intends to funnel this energy into the polls this midterm election season.
Mallory’s speech was just one of the many events BSU had planned for black history month.
The organization will host their closing ceremony Wednesday, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. at Vicky’s Cafe.