By Angelique Cherie Fullwood
This modern era of civil rights, dubbed the “Black Lives Matter Movement” by the media, has often raised questions around identifying “the” leader. What has become evident from the uprisings and protests across the country is that this movement isn’t leader-less, but rather leader-full, with women and young people taking the front lines. Here are some of the most powerful black political activists in Tallahassee.
Regina Joseph, 22
“There is no revolution without women’s liberation.” –Regina Joseph
Radical queer Haitian feminist Regina Joseph is an organizer from the Florida State University chapter of Students for a Democratic Society, a multinational multi issue student group dedicated to building power.
“I was inspired to become an activist because I was a victim of molestation and I never wanted to have another person feel like their voice didn’t matter,” said Joseph, “Because of that, I became very keen on the issues that women face. Women do the majority of the work in the left and rarely get the credit. The basis of capitalism is patriarchy, and racism wouldn’t exist without capitalism. As leftists we always have to ensure the leadership of women.”
Joseph led and organized many iconic protests in Tallahassee but the highlight of her activism experience was planning an Anti-KKK rally. The rally was a response to KKK flyers being distributed in Leon County and Neo-Confederates threatening local activists online. Around the same time three Florida Department of Corrections officers, who were later revealed to be undercover Klansmen, were convicted for attempting to kill a prisoner.
To show that she wasn’t afraid of the hooded terrorists, Joseph famously burned the Confederate Flag on the steps of the Florida Capitol. Her photo quickly went viral.
“It meant so much to me that other people were inspired by our images of the flag burning,” said Joseph, “I see it every so often.”
Currently Joseph is working on increasing black enrollment at FSU with SDS. She believes that students have a special place to make a change in society just like in the 60s and 70s. You can learn more about SDS online at Facebook.com/TallahasseeSDS or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Melanie Andrade, 24
“Part of being an activist is doing something new and feeling like you have power.”- Melanie Andrade
Melanie Andrade, born and raised in Kissimmee, Fl, became an activist while attending Florida A & M University. It was in her literature class where she found out about Trayvon Martin. From various classroom discussions she was moved to become politically active by a feeling much deeper than love, and involves recognizing the humanity and dignity of people.
“It’s about I love you for you. I love you because you are human and you deserve to be treated as such,” said Andrade. “Even with activism I’m still constantly seeing how I’m so programmed to the point where I don’t see other black people’s humanity and I’m just quick to brush them off as a commodity like other people do.”
Combatting the ways we are taught to see each other, and constantly learning and unlearning is something Andrade has grown to be conscience of.
Her first step in activism was participating in a call in action, demanding that the Sanford Police Department arrest George Zimmerman. From this small action she continued to build on her grassroots organizing experience. She rose as a cornerstone member of the Dream Defenders, leading lobbying days, speaking on major news outlets, and traveling to Washington, D.C for the 50th Anniversary of the March for Jobs and Freedom.
Andrade was even arrested after participating in a civil disobedience, where she and others blocked a highway in Boca Raton during the 2012 Presidential Debates, demanding that the candidates speak on the issues that affect the black and brown communities. One of those issues is the school-to-prison pipeline, the phenomenon of youth being funneled into private prisons from elementary schools through policies such as zero-tolerance.
Now, as a mom, the school-to-prison pipeline takes on a whole new meaning for Andrade.
“For me it’s actually a conception-to-prison pipeline. It starts with the education of pregnancy, especially us as women of color,” said Andrade. “The way we see our bodies, its negative. It’s something that we’ve been chastised for, like we’re bad, we’re ‘fresh’, we’re this, we’re that, even as young girls. We don’t even know the power that we possess, but we’re taught it is negative. Our whole pregnancy experience compared to someone who’s wealthier or more educated is completely different. The school to prison pipeline starts here. It’s not a “blame the parents” thing, it’s systemic.”
That is why Andrade is a part of Melanin Moms Meet, a collective which started as a support group for moms of color, but turned into an opportunity to organize moms around movement issues.
“I used to always say things like ‘One day I’m going to have a black son!’ and now I do,” said Andrade. “When you’re pregnant and young and black there’s a lot of negativity and scary uncertainty around it, it’s not something you embrace upfront. So Melanin Moms Meet is supposed to be the opposite of that.”
Having the space for mothers to be in the movement allows for actions to be a lot more inclusive, and have representation from that who have the most at stake.
To become involved with Melanin Moms Meet, you can email Melanie at email@example.com
Angela Day, 13; Frank Day, 11; Sara Rose Day, 10; Gerald Day, 8; Ryland Day, 5; Rowan Day, 4
“When I become president I’m going to make sure that Black lives do matter.” – Sara Rose Day
If you asked the Day family children exactly how many protests they have been a part of, 5-year-old Ryland will blurt out 20. 8-year-old Gerald will say about 400, causing Ryland to change her number to 450,900. 11-year-old Frankie settles on 250. While these numbers may not be exact, it is undeniable that this family of 6 kids has racked up some epic social justice experiences.
The Days’ are the youngest members of the Dream Defenders from Tallahassee, Florida. They participated in the historical 31 day sit in at the Florida State Capitol after George Zimmerman was acquitted for the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. It was their mother, Theresa Day, who brought the kids out to protest after following the story.
“I was thinking, if it was one of my kids, how terrible of thing that we would have to go through,” said Theresa, “They weren’t doing anything about it. It seemed like nothing was being done. So I told the kids, let’s see what we can do to help.”
From there, Angela, Frankie, Sara Rose, Gerald, Ryland and baby Rowan have been active with every Dream Defender march and rally, even participating in the “die-in” shutdown at the intersection of Tennessee and Monroe Street. Although they are young, they all believe that what they are doing is important.
“There are a lot of things happening that shouldn’t happen,” said 10-year-old Sara Rose, “A lot of people across the country are being shot by policemen. It makes me feel real upset because it shouldn’t be happening to people, especially black people. When you do something wrong, you’re supposed to get arrested, not shot.”
Perhaps one of the most impactful experience the kids have as activists are being able to meet so many different types of people at events like the biennial Dream Defender convening, where members from across the state of Florida meet up to learn from each other and create a safe space to be free. Through this, the Day kids prove to be conscious and accepting of the differences in others. The kids all agree that their Dream Defender comrades are some of the most important people in their lives.
“[Being an activist] has helped me be able to talk to different people. I’m making more friends than when I was quiet” said 13-year-old Angela who, prior to yelling chants with a large group, was extremely shy. Now she is confident that she will change the world. “I want to stop the shootings against black people, against different genders, and end violence in general.”
While they are taking on serious issues, they are still very much enjoying their youth. For brothers Frankie and Gerald, their favorite thing about being in Dream Defenders is having fun. At convenings they got to participate in talent shows, play games, and learn freedom songs.
“I’ve seen a lot of growth in them,” said Theresa, “They have a lot more respect for others; a lot more respect for each other, and are more engaged with other people who aren’t their age. I don’t think they realize that they’re building relationships with people that they’re going to carry for the rest of their lives. ”
To learn more about Dream Defenders, visit http://www.Dreamdefenders.com