For decades African-Americans have been dealing with white supremacy but movements such as #BlackLivesMatter and #RhodesMustFall are fighting hard to break the systematic oppression blacks face. Howard University students and staff gathered on Tuesday, Nov. 29 in Founders Library to listen to a panel discussion on black activism in the U.S. and South Africa, sponsored by the Center for African Studies, the Department of African Studies, and the Department of Afro American Studies. The panel was moderated by Nana Afua Y. Brantuo and the two key speakers were Melina Abdullah and Kealeboga Ramaru.
Brantuo spoke on ‘black activism’ by sharing various quotes that a few of her favorite speakers used to define the term. For example, Brantuo shared a quote from Audre Lorde that said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Brantuo said, “Black activism revolves around critical thinking, conscious building, community organization, cooperation, and resilience.”
Brantuo started the panel discussion by asking the panelists how they started their organizations. Ramaru began organizing #RhodesMustFall at the University of Cape Town. The student-ran protest was formed in hopes to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes on campus, but grew to focus on direct action against institutional racism. Ramaru decided to become apart of the movement, because she wanted to “Challenge what we see in our country, not only our universities and what we see is institutionalized racism.”
Abdullah began organizing for #BlackLivesMatter on the day George Zimmerman was acquitted for murdering Trayvon Martin. She kept up with the trial and was saddened and enraged with the final results and decided to go out to meet with fellow protesters.
“One of the things we often hashtag when someone is killed is #Justicefor and the truth is that’s just symbolic and we can never get justice for them. We can’t get justice for them because their bodies have already been stolen from us,” said Abdullah.
Desmond Andrews, a senior journalism major said, “Most of the things they discussed here wasn’t new information. This just gives us a reality check that we need to keep fighting for what we believe is right.”
Ramaru said during her journey with #RhodesMustFall she received support but also that some people felt held back. Abdullah said, “There is no better space for organizing than at an institution.” After speaking with Howard University students it’s evident they felt the same way.
Christalle Hasabumutima, a sophomore psychology major said, “I’ve been fortunate enough to be exposed to spaces like this panel, but it also makes it frustrating for me because I hear it in every space and every way. I think it’s time for a new way. We need to do what we need to do to go where we want to go and it’s just frustrating, because it’s on repeat at all of these events.”