A Value Worth Working For

bellAn excerpt from an i-D.vice.com interview with author bell hooks:

What does the word ‘justice’ mean to you?

What we see in many cases is a white supremacy and what defines that as a political system is grave injustice. So justice has a value worth working for, worth sacrificing for. Dr Martin Luther King did talk a lot about justice, but I also think of a modern day activist like Bryan Stevenson, who is committed to trying to create justice for black children and black people who are unjustly imprisoned; he’s just amazing. Conversation is very connected to this, one of the books that we are looking at, at the institute, is called The Soul Making Room by Dee Dee Risher, who used to write for a Christian magazine called The Other Side. Her whole thesis is around the degree to which hospitality and willingness to engage the stranger aids us in efforts to end domination. I can’t think of a more appropriate moment to discuss this, as we going through such a rise in xenophobia and white supremacy at the moment. We need to talk about what it means to embrace people who are not like ourselves.

What advice would you give young people about social activism and how they can make tangible changes within the community to inform and educate other young people?

Revolution begins in the self and with the self. I see among my students an eagerness to be engaged in social activism, but without the maturity of emotional awareness and stability that allows us to really look at a situation and say, ‘What’s my purpose here? What’s the intent here?’ On that level it’s really important for people, those who are young especially, to engage in education for critical consciousness and to not think that just because they think sexism is wrong to get up and be part of some protest. Young people need to remember that it’s important to really study and reflect on what our aims are, and what we can actually do. To ask questions like, ‘what does this particular protest do?’ Like with Black Lives Matter, find out what the acts of social change are that came out of that movement? Of course, it’s a statement to just bring awareness, but what do we do after bringing awareness? It’s not just Black Lives Matter or Occupy Wall Street, it’s about how we take the emotional energy of social activism into an arena that creates concrete change in our everyday lives and in the lives of people around us. I am really big on working for change in the actual communities we live in, because so often when we engage a larger critique, and a larger protest, it doesn’t have an impact on where we live.

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