Originally published February 2013 here.
"Activist Professor inspire me to speak out" By Mashallah Salaam
The room was huge and flooded with college students. It was pretty dark, and as it got closer for me to speak, I could feel myself getting more nervous by the minute.
I clutched my paper tighter as I felt my heart beating faster and faster. Suddenly it was my turn. “This is it,” I whispered to myself as I made my way to center stage.
It had all started when I was introduced to a group called S3!, which stands for “Striving Sisters Speak!” I had met my group leader, Professor Patricia Parker, founder and director of the Ella Baker Women’s Center, at an annual festival called “Neighborhood Night Out” held at the Hargraves Center in Chapel Hill.
She told us how she created the group to build leaders out of young African-American females like me to create positive change within and outside our communities. The group is based on the life’s work of human rights activist, Ella Baker who spent her childhood in Littleton North Carolina and graduated valedictorian at Shaw University in 1927.
My mom and I decided to attend a meeting. When we got there, Professor Parker explained how every year we would learn about an issue, then plan and attend events to spread awareness. This is a part of her “learn, teach, lead” model – what she calls “critical pedagogy” – which empowers learners to teach others.
I knew that this was something I really wanted to do. My mother and I soon became very active in this group. It was not long before we started attending events about the “Raise the Age campaign” for 16- and 17-year-old youth offenders charged as adults, even when they are arrested for less serious or non-violent crimes. We even had the opportunity to talk with actual lawyers and judges about the injustice of the “school to prison pipeline.”
We learned so much and worked so hard to promote awareness about this issue that I began to feel like a real activist!
Weeks later we knew that we were ready to present this information at a UNC showcase event. I was chosen to be a speaker for the presentation that we all prepared, which made me very nervous, considering that I tend to be very shy. But luckily I had the support of the S3 members, Professor Parker and her students. They rehearsed with me several times, which really helped, especially since Professor Parker is an associate professor of communication studies at UNC Chapel Hill.
When my turn finally came, I thought about everything Professor Parker had taught me. I looked all around the auditorium and could count about 100 people or more. I could see my mom and some of my S3! members sitting in the front middle row. Professor Parker was standing right beside me. The bright light was shining directly at me. Then I began to speak.
Afterward, I got some very supportive feedback and compliments, which really surprised me! I began to feel more confident and brave. All thanks to the group that started it all; S3!
But the best part of this is knowing that my group S3!, learned all of this together. We are like true sisters inside an intellectual and social journey that gives us the knowledge and confidence to let ourselves shine.
Mashallah Salaam is a home-schooled student in Chapel Hill. To learn more about S3!, visit the Ella Baker Women’s Center website at http://ellabakerwomenscenter.org/
Dr. Parker and Youth Leaders Attend 2009 Inaugural Celebration
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 14, 2009
The e-mail Patricia Parker received shortly after New Year’s Day seemed like a dream. She and members of the Chapel Hill youth action group that she founded were invited to celebrate the presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20 – for free. Parker, a communication studies associate professor in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s College of Arts and Sciences, is the founder of the Ella Baker Women’s Center for Leadership and Community Activism. The flagship project of Parker’s nonprofit is Striving Sisters Speak!!! (S³), a group of young minority women in low-income neighborhoods who are working to create coalitions of social justice in their communities.
Originally published here.
Patricia Parker—associate professor in communication studies, IAH Fellow and IAH Leadership Advisory Board member—is tired. “But it’s a good tired,” says Parker, who has had a busy few years.
In addition to the typical teaching and research load of any UNC faculty, Parker’s latest activities include founding a nonprofit organization that works with local low-income communities, establishing a group to empower young women of color, taking members of that group to the Presidential Inauguration, planning and executing a conference on models of youth/adult collaboration, going with a group of young women to Chicago for a conference on community organizing… and then starting the planning process to do it all again next year.
Originally published on "The Revolution Starts at Home" tumblr:
What does transformative justice/ community accountabilty mean to you?
Transformative justice means that we are all loving participants in an intentional journey towards justice and wholeness with each other, with the planet and within ourselves at the same time. It means we do what it takes to be present enough with each other to be transformed by each other. Community accountability means we give an account of our reality to each other, and then we give it again and we listen. It means we can really speak to each other and listen to each other and transform our actions accordingly. It means we build structures that allow us to do this collectively and to invite more of our community into the process.
How do you create justice and safety in your communities without using the police or the state?
In Durham, out of the work of UBUNTU (a women of color/survivor led coalition to end gendered violence and create sustaining transformative love) and a delegation from North Carolina to the Critical Resistance 10 Conference we created something called the Durham Harm Free Zone. The manifestation of the Harm Free Zone include an initiative facilitated by the Ella Baker Women’s Center through which residents in a local public housing community have implemented their plans to create safety in their community by building relationships and pushing back against the imposed criminalization that the housing authority levies against them.
This has been an inspiring process to witness, especially in the name of Ella Baker who was raised in communities creating safety without even the option of calling in the police. Another exciting outgrowth is the Safe in Our Streets youth organizing and awareness collective which is part of the SpiritHouse youth program. It has been amazing to watch visionary youth collect stories and create transformative performances, PSA’s and campaigns that are accountable to the safety needs of queer youth of color and other criminalized youth of color in our communities.
The miracle that impacts me the most everyday is that by ritualizing our relationships and intentionally building radical alignment I have the rare and priceless experience of having a network of comrades to call on in times of need, times when I don’t feel safe, and times when I don’t know how to help someone else arrive at safety. This is the ongoing fruit of organizing together, the trust and action built from knowing who has your back and who will support you in having someone else’s back too.
In collaboration with the NC Dream Team and The Ella Baker Women’s Center for Leadership and Community Activism, and sponsored by the Chapel Hill’s Public Arts Commission and the Office of Public and Cultural Arts, local visual artist Luis Franco and poet and writer Kane Smego organized a project with African American, Latino, and multiracial youth to discuss racial identity and issues of racism through the expressive medium of the graphic novel or comic book.
During a series of twelve Saturday morning workshops at the Street Scene Teen Center (and additional outside work) the teens developed their characters by writing poems about themselves and their own experiences with racism. They then crafted story lines, storyboards and plot sequences, and drew and colored the various frames to bring their superheroes to life on the pages of their very own comics. The teens’ artwork and poetry debuted in an exhibition at The ArtsCenter recently in Carrboro.
“Comics Speak!” grew out of a response to a community need for expression, discussion, and collaboration. The goal was to empower youth of color to use the arts to confront the obstacles they and their communities face on a regular basis, as well as celebrate the vibrant cultural identities they possess. The project provided space and instruction for these youth to connect and identify these issues, by using both visual art and spoken word as a means of communicating with the community at large. The project was an extension of two earlier community workshops conducted by Chapel Hill’s Sacrificial Poets that identified a desire for an artistic means of expression for the teens that was positive and identity-affirming.
Source: Chapelboro. http://chapelboro.com/lifestyle/arts-entertainment/comic-speak-at-the-artscenter