Following the Women’s Marches and anti-inauguration protests worldwide, community organizer Rosa Clemente ’02 called for an uncompromising movement against racial oppression at a lecture Tuesday at the Africana Studies and Research Center.
“We have to be disruptive and mobilize,” said the 2008 Green Party Vice Presidential Candidate. “We have to continue to say we will be ungovernable and what that looks like to this type of government.”
Clemente stressed the the need for activism outside the electoral system, demanding that activists reject “any call to understand and collaborate with the enemy” and turn to resistance movements and grassroots organizing.
“If you’re not part of the movement, become part of the movement,” Clemente said.
For Clemente, the kind of activism needed today combines protest with scholarship in Africana studies departments on college campuses to inspire students to participate in activism.
“We as scholars in Africana studies have the ultimate responsibility to use our knowledge to empower our community,” Clemente said. “That some of us have degrees and some of us do not does not mean we don’t work together.”
Of Afro-Latino descent, Clemente drew upon her personal experiences in finding her identity at college.
“I had to learn about [African American and Latino history] in class. And the more I learned, the angrier I got at my family,” Clemente said, “I would go home and say, ‘Dad, why didn’t you tell me this?’”
As she learned more, Clemente said she began to understand the shortcomings in her identity formation. Prior to these experiences, Clemente said that she knew nothing of herself.
These struggles with her own identity gave her the energy and inspiration to fight against systemic racism, she said.
“I can’t even tell you how important it was as an undergrad — who grew up not in an organizing household, really not political in any way — to be immersed in the early ’90s in upstate New York campuses with black student unions and Latino student unions that were making noise that were demanding their history to be taught,” she said.
Clemente described what it takes to become an organizer on the front line of social change.
“You don’t wake up one day, go to a protest and [suddenly become] an organizer. You’re an activist and an advocate,” Clemente said.
Clemente explained that the process of becoming an organizer requires greater effort.
“To be an organizer requires immense dedication, scholarship, activism, intellectualism,” Clemente said, adding that being a leader involves mobilizing people of all backgrounds to participate in the movement.
“That sense of family and relationship building and even the idea of radical love is what is desperately needed in this time,” she said.