Interview with a Student Organizer

"The Night for Justice" and Preparing for Rise Up October

September 28, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


This interview is with a student who is organizing for Rise Up October, including an event called “The Night for Justice” at New York University (NYU) on October 1. (See Stop Mass Incarceration Network events calendar for more on the program.)

Can you tell us about what’s moved and compelled you to organize “The Night for Justice” at NYU on October 1 as part of organizing for Rise Up October?

My goal is to promote student activism. I think there is a rich population of young leaders on campuses like NYU and Columbia that haven’t been mobilized, many of whom are passionate about social justice but are unaware of how they can be involved as it pertains to eradicating excessive force and police brutality. So the goal of this event is to engage students and help them prepare for Rise Up October and activism beyond.

Can you talk about the moral determination you step with to bring alive the reality of this genocide? What drives you? And tell us a little more about who you are as an individual and what you’re thinking.

At a very basic level I am passionate about human rights. And promoting the inherent value of all people. And I think there has been a culture in this country, a culture globally, that has said Black lives do not matter. And that they have an inherent value that’s less than the rest of the population. So I plan to dedicate my life’s work to making sure that we ameliorate outcomes for Black people. And in alignment with that belief, I wanted to plan a program specifically around the mass incarceration and brutality of Black people because we’re being eliminated. It’s a purposeful genocide and I want as many people to know about this injustice as possible.

We’re nearing October 24. What do you want that day to look like? There’s been a call for a meet-up here at Washington Square Park and the vision is for thousands and thousands of people, and that’s what we’re actively working to bring about. What do you envision that day to look like?

When I think about what I’m hoping to inspire or be a part of motivating, I think about all of the students that mobilized during the time of sit-ins and the freedom rides. They were alive. They were inspired to provoke immediate change. They were relentless and courageous. So I’m hoping to inspire that level of fervor on this campus and others. I think that to not engage young people on important social issues will be a missed opportunity. I’m hoping that these issues will have some longevity, and I think the way to do that is to teach young people how to lead. And to grab them at a time where their curiosities are peaked. And so for all of those interested in this particular cause and movement and those who don’t know that they should care... I want them to have an opportunity to be aware of what I deem to be the most important social and criminal justice issue of our time.

What would you say to anybody reading this (to youths, students, and beyond that) of why they need to be in NYC on October 22-24 for Rise Up October?

I believe silence, like inaction, is consent. Anyone who is not participating in the sparing of lives, the urging of new practices, they are complicit in the deaths that we see reported. They are complicit in a system that makes vulnerable people more vulnerable and promotes oppression. So my hope is to tap into the human consciousness of all races and build allies that will stand with me in solidarity and making sure that our lives do matter. And that there’s not any more women, children, or men taken off this planet without there being an overwhelming cry for justice.

You’re very new at organizing, and you’re determined to make this happen. What would you say to students who are just hearing about Rise Up October and want to organize something on their campus? What’s been some of the lessons you’ve learned as a way of encouragement for others to do the same?

The most valuable lesson has been to be comfortable through the process of pushing back against longstanding boundaries. Issues of social justice and issues of race make people uncomfortable and you have to, as a new organizer, be willing to make some people uncomfortable. Be willing to be disliked. Know that you’re doing so for a purpose and to allow that end goal to continue to motivate you that there might be people who are placing intentional roadblocks in the way in your advancement. Just to be firm and rooted in your cause and not to waver.


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