Change Begins With You: MLK Day Speaker Promotes Local Activism

“What I’m going to say, a lot of people aren’t going to like, but I don’t do this work to be liked. I do this work to be free,” said the keynote speaker for Clark’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration.

Clemente discusses new era of social activism during Clark’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration. The speech is one of four annual diversity events that gets is held on campus. (Andy Bao/ The Independent)

Self-proclaimed “scholarly activist,” Rosa Clemente, delivered a speech titled “Transformation: A New Era of Social Activism” at noon on Jan. 18. Clemente’s specialty is in Afro-Latinx identity, and she ran as the vice presidential candidate for the Green Party in 2008. Clark was one of over 45 colleges she spoke at during her year-long speaking tour.

Freedom is an important principle for Clemente. While her scholarly work specializes in Afro-Latinx issues, she sees activism as a united front: the struggles of one group are not separate from the struggles of another.

“For those of us who do this work, we truly believe that when black and brown people are free, everyone is free,” Clemente said.

Clemente’s speech focused on how social activism has changed. She said that the job of today’s activists is to get involved with local movements, and to work with those communities to create change.

“The role of a revolutionary is to step into conflict and destroy the systems which are causing it,” Clemente said.

Dr. Martin Luther King (Pixabay.com)

Flyn Alexander, a Clark alumnus and program specialist of the Transitional Studies Division, has taken Clemente’s words to heart. Alexander is trans, and serves as an activist for the queer community. He is the advisor of the Queer Student Association, leads faculty trainings that he calls “Queer 101,” and speaks about queer issues in women’s studies classes.

“You don’t have to be a protestor to be an activist,” Alexander said. “Activism really starts with you. Your activism can look however you want it to: It can be art, it can be music, it can be any form of expression that you want to share with the world.”

For Alexander, his activism looks like teaching. He said that educating people about queer issues is how he chooses to engage his community. Alexander also stressed the importance of learning. For the first time in six years, Alexander decided to become a student again by taking a few classes this quarter.

“I may have a bachelor’s degree, but that doesn’t mean anything in the long run if I don’t keep educating myself,” Alexander said.

Education’s importance in activism was echoed by Felis Peralta, multicultural retention manager of the Office of Diversity and Equity. She said that being educated on a topic is the first step to becoming an activist, and that the staff at the Cannell Library and Diversity Center are more than willing to help people with research.

“The thing about activism is that you don’t have to be alone in this,” Peralta said. “You shouldn’t be alone in this.”

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