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Collins advocates youth activism

Patricia Hill-Collins speaks about youth and black activism.

Michael Blackson
Editor in Chief

Hazel I. Jackson, a South Carolina native, is recognized every year at Millersville University for her instrumental work in empowering and furthering the status of African Americans in the Lancaster and Millersville area. She sits in the front row of the Lehr Room in Gordinier Hall as a prominent person speaks to the audience on a topic of their choosing.
Patricia Hill-Collins, a sociologist and award-winning author, titled her lecture Toward Social Justice: Intersectionality, Youth, and Political Activism on March 27, 2013. Collins related her topic to Jackson because it was “a period Hazel faced and struggles she faced.”

Patricia Hill-Collins speaks about youth and black activism.
Patricia Hill-Collins speaks about youth and black activism.

But the type of activism she was discussing included “youth activism, not just black activism,” Collins said. She covered three primary topics focused on activism.
The first topic was titled ‘Commonsense Understanding of Youth and Political Activism: the 1960’s Stock Story’, which is the media glamorizing the movement as something it was not.
“We cannot follow what the media says activism is,” Collins said.
The movement was presented as white people and hippies with flowers in their hair as the benchmark. This was the universal story, but not the only story. Collins challenged this notion, stating that middle class kids – youth and black – were the benchmark of the movement. Intersectional frameworks are what’s needed to “challenge the stock story” as it investigates how sex, class, race, etc. interconnect.
The second topic was titled ‘Rewriting the Stock Story: Black Youth and Activism’. She mentioned this movement was the first to use modern mass media, which led to the universal story previously mentioned. Education in the black political struggle was a major focal point as well. Some prominent examples were reading and literacy for slaves, founding of schools and publication education following emancipation, and the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954 for civil rights.
Collins stated that the Brown v. Board was a “very important historical” moment in activism. But Philadelphia schools are still not segregated.
“Look where kids go to school, what they’re offered,” she said.
There were even more struggles for black activism. For example, Collins explained that when Martin Luther King, Jr. became more intersectional, or fighting for the poor people movement and the Vietnamese, people tended to go against what he said. The same applied to Malcolm X with pushing Islam. These intellectuals were moving toward class analysis and interrogated their own point of views. Black radicalism was difficult to follow because of its link to communism in the 1950’s.
The third and final point was titled ‘Rethinking Youth and Political Activism: Some Implications’. Collins looked at intergenerational transfer of power and leadership and what each generation has to offer. The main term she mentioned was turning points, defined as a phenomena that shape collective memories and shape a generation’s self-identity.
After looking at activism throughout all her slides, Collins said, “we need new definitions of what activism is.”
Activism cannot be individually confined, especially for self-interest, social change, and social justice. She continued, “Change is a tool, not a vision.”
Collins finished off by stating that youth is the change, focused on social justice. They have been hidden in plain sight, though always involved in activism.
“Youth are the one fighting for a future,” said Collins.