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Tackling Social Injustice

Tackling Social Injustice

The Agnes Scott College’s Gay Johnson McDougall Center for Global Diversity and Inclusion hosted a virtual panel discussion titled “Tackling Social Injustice: Strategies for Action” as part of its Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Courageous Conversation Series.

Featured panelists included Brandi Collins-Dexter, senior campaign director for Color of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization, and Paul McLennan, member of the board of the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights and a retired member of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 732. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Yves-Rose Porcena, vice president for Equity and Inclusion at Agnes Scott College.

“We have been working on social and racial justice issues for a long time, so it only made sense to figure out a way to continue our work even in the midst of the pandemic’s needs for physical distancing," said Porcena. “We created these webinars to bring together the college’s mission of ‘engaging the social and intellectual challenges of our times’ with the work we are doing as a Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation campus.”

Panelists spent time discussing the Black Lives Matter movement's impact and shared practical strategies for individuals and organizations to join in community action against structural racism.

McLennan, who was among the leaders who worked for the removal of the confederate monument in downtown Decatur, offered significant lessons learned from the recent experience.

Lessons from the Removal of the Decatur Confederate Monument

  • Know how city and county decisions are made. It is important to identify who owns the monument and maintain a presence at the city and county level.
  • Make youth central to the movement. Youth should be involved every step of the way.
  • Embrace coalition-building and intersectionality because people don’t live single-issue lives, and organizing should reflect that.
  • Never give up. Be persistent. Apply pressure from below by going to public meetings, making phone calls and using email campaigns.
  • Deepen your understanding of history to learn from it, and celebrate your victories.

“I am so grateful to this uprising by a new generation of youth who are demanding systemic change and an end to state violence,” said McLennan. “The wave they created merged with our ongoing base-building work to sweep the confederate monument out of Decatur, and it has opened up the horizon for all of us to envision a new world.”

Collins provided practical strategies for keeping the momentum of the racial justice movement, particularly during a pandemic.

Strategies for Keeping Momentum During Racial Injustice

  • Build a list of various leaders and voices from different communities to learn what’s happening beyond your community globally across different movements.
  • Understand power. Create a power-map to understand who are the day-to-day decision-makers and how you get them to respond to your organizing efforts.
  • Alliance-build: Make sure you’re aligned around a similar set of asks to explain.
  • Ensure that companies go beyond the statement. Create an excel form of companies who share a Black Lives Matter statement so you can ask the necessary questions about things you’re not getting from those companies to hold them accountable.
  • Remember that there are multiple ways to contribute to a movement. Everyone does not have to be at the forefront of the movement.

“Our communities are rooted in a natural joy and humor that I think is important not to lose during the hard times,” said Collins. “I think it’s our superpower through oppression is to laugh during the hardest of times, and when we lose that, we lose ourselves. It’s important to know how to expand for that cultural connection.”

The webinar ended with Porcena making a call to action for its participants.

“It is not enough to have conversations,” said Porcena. “We must commit ourselves to be anti-racist. Addressing racism requires more than attending anti-racism webinars. It requires reconsidering our values, turning them into action, and investing in the assets and leadership of communities of color.”

About Color Of Change

Color Of Change is the nation’s largest online racial justice organization helping people respond effectively to injustice in the world around us. As a national online force driven by 7 million members, we move decision-makers in corporations and government to create a more human and less hostile world for Black people in America.

About Beacon Hill

Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights empowers, advocates, educates, and organizes people of African descent affected by systemic racism and oppression on issues of equity in education, housing and the legal system in the City of Decatur and surrounding communities.

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