“Not many people can handle being followed, or their phone tapped, hidden cameras in their house, or knowing that someone wants to kill you,” said Sister Souljah. “The life of an activist is hard and dangerous.”
The Division of Diversity and Inclusion held the 9th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. lecture with activist, rapper and best-selling author Sister Souljah as the speaker last Tuesday.
Souljah, a Bronx native, was a popular community activist back in the 80’s and 90’s who fought against police brutality, miseducation in urban areas and racially motivated crimes.
In the early 1990s Sister Souljah made a controversial statement during Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign saying, “If black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?”
Those words caused an uproar and Clinton answered back by speaking of prejudices and how “we as people need to come together.” That exchange led to the coining of “a Sister Souljah moment” as a term meaning a politician’s public repudiation of an extremist’s statement or position.
As a young activist, she spent most of her time organizing cultural and educational events to inform the youth about their past as well as teach them about the social issues they faced in the present.
Souljah remains dedicated to equality today. She promotes and challenges students to have uncomfortable conversations, allowing the exchange of ideas and perspectives.
“A college campus is an academic free space. You are supposed to bring people in and listen intellectually to what they are debating and arguing and challenging you to think about,” said Souljah.
Before beginning her talk in the Swinney Recreation Center, Souljah announced that she would not be giving a traditional lecture on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or his speeches. Instead, she would be commemorating him by recognizing and explaining, in her own personal way, why he was a good leader and how that helped him change the world.
“Visionary,” “courage,” “intelligence” “compassion” and “sacrifice” were all words Souljah used to describe what made MLK a great man. Having those characteristics as his foundation aided him in paving a way for black people to secure the freedoms they have today.
Souljah talked about the sacrifices MLK made of his family, friends and self and how that shaped him into a great leader. The compassion he had for others gave him the ability to lend a hand to those less fortunate. His intelligence granted him the skill to create a process and solution to gaining civil rights for African Americans.
He used his vision to see what was missing in the United States because of a color barrier and put into action a plan to stop it. Lastly, Souljah spoke of the courage MLK demonstrated in the face of danger and pain because he was one of the most prominent and recognized faces during the civil rights era.
Souljah emphasized the importance of leading by example. Everyone is responsible for themselves and people of all colors, religions and demographics should focus on love.
Following Souljah’s lecture, Rȇmy Abrought, a graduate Black Studies major, expressed how her classes coincided with Souljah’s speech.
“At the moment, we’re learning about MLK and his role in civil rights and to hear Sister Souljah’s personal standpoint about him sacrificing his life and what it meant to her was different and refreshing,” said Abrought. “Her words will help me in my fight for equality and justice for African Americans and other races.”
After the lecture, there was a question and answer portion followed by a book signing with the best-selling author.