*History was made on Saturday, January 12, 2019 at the University of California, Los Angeles when they held their first annual Social Justice Summit, hosted by the Black Alumni Association.
The Meyer and Luskin Conference Center was full of people looking to be enlightened, directed and empowered with information to take back to their own communities to initiate or participate in change.
Michelle Johnson, the president of the UCLA Black Alumni Association showed great pride when speaking on how her vision became a reality. When asked about bringing this to fruition, she reflected on the obstacles encountered which seemed minimal compared to the outcome. This packed house could have been stalled by the naysayers but would not be denied by Michelle.
“The tagline for the event is the intended outcome,” Michelle Johnson stated. LEAVE HERE AND LEAD SOMETHING! Every attendant should leave here feeling empowered that you can leave the event, go back to their community and shape their future. Particularly, at the university level, when obstacles are being approached, Ms. Johnson advises students to leverage the support of the Black alumni from the school. This has proven to be an arm of any higher education movement.
From the LA County, District Attorney’s Office, Mr. Robert L. Grace emphasized the importance of eliminating the space between Black men and Black women when embarking on through these powerful movements. No matter if it is the Occupy Movement, the Me Too Movement, the Black Lives Matter Movement, they all should be done in unison.
“It is evident that identity politics is being used to divide the black man from the black woman. It needs to be understood that the work that the women are doing is a direct benefit to black men.”
He goes on to explain that all of the recent movements, though started by African American women, have been beneficial to the Black family even though there is more violence against African American women. They do not let fear shackle them. For this reason alone, we must make sure that the spotlight on African American women not be dimmed and fully supported by the African American male.
As a black man in law enforcement, Mr. Robert Grace pointed out how important it is to start at a local level to bring attention in media presence to issues that matter in the black community. We may have to work harder to keep the attention on issues that are important to us but it will go a long way in helping take the movements further.
“When you look at situations like the Torrance, California shooting, it didn’t get as much attention or for as long of a period as the Pulse shooting or the Las Vegas killings.”
It can be inferred that it went this way because it was a black-on-black crime scenario but at the end of the day, people lost their lives and even though it was less than a month ago, it has left the news cycle.
The highlight of the event came when the phenomenal Jemele Hill introduced the legend Angela Davis and the remarkable incomparable Common. The conversation was quite eye-opening in regard to how long Ms. Davis has been doing the work of garnering support for movements that change the direction of the African American people. When Jemele asked her about the enormous amount of work in her portfolio and how she continues to stay as motivated as she ever was, Ms. Davis responded by stating, “I just can’t imagine living any other way. For me, it’s nothing special. Like Common, I didn’t decide at a particular moment in my life that I was going to be an activist. I just always try to live my life in a way that spreads justice in the world. It brings joy to the world.” She also spoke on the work that she has done surrounding the Jewish community and her opposition 2 Israelis treatment of Palestine. This Birmingham Alabama native has consistently been a voice for the oppressed and fighter of freedom and independence. “When Black lives matter, it will mean that all lives matter.”
Common showed incredible deference to the living legend while also explaining the importance of movement in the work that he is doing. His foundation, Common Ground Foundation continues the work that will take the African American community to the next stages of independence and progress.
Common echoed the sentiments of Angela Davis in that there is a joy in working to see the progress of a people and our nation. They both spoke about not needing a large amount of money to be a change maker, simply a voice and opportunity to highlight important issues. Common sang the praises of Colin Kaepernick as an example, stating:
“People won’t remember Tom Brady the way that they remember (Colin) Kaepernick. He might have way more touchdowns and everything but I remember just recently going to South Africa and all they kept asking me about what Kaepernick. They didn’t ask about Antonio Brown or Tom Brady.”
The theme of the day was clear that we all need to do the work and spread the word. We must be consistent in our communication about the importance of fair treatment, equality, and unity. This was a day with a clear message, a powerful group of voices and a collective of ideas, opportunities, and support.
Well done, UCLA. This was a free event with an invaluable level of impact.