Luula Hassan is the 2016 S.M. Blair Family Foundation Intern. This summer, Luula will be working with the Mosaic team on the UofMosaic Fellowship Program, and will also be supporting the development and launch of an undergraduate student journal.
Luula reflects on youth social activism and racial politics below.
Youth leaders have consistently been at the forefront of activism campaigns, from the 1960s civil-rights movement to the recent Black Lives Matter movement (BLM). In the last few years, as a result of advertent discrimination towards marginalized groups, social activism campaigns have been ignited to shed light and draw attention to state-led injustices. The primary difference between social justice movements from the past and those happening now is that participation is no longer limited to one’s location, employment, or education. With the rise of social media platforms, i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, participation has been made accessible. Moreso, it allows for the voices of marginalized people to be at the forefront and to not be muffled by the voices of privilege.
The BLM movement was established in 2012 following the announcement that George Zimmerman was acquitted for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. The movement began on social media with the use of the hashtag “BlackLivesMatter” as means for individuals to rally together against police brutality. Following the shooting death of Michael Brown on August 2014, BLM organized their first in-person protest. BLM was created as a call to action and a response to systemic anti-Black racism. Currently there are 38 chapters with participants from across the United States as well as Canada. Despite their geographical differences, they all have one mandate: “Broadening the conversation around state violence to include all of the ways in which Black people are intentionally left powerless at the hands of the state”
The primary difference between the BLM movement and the 1960s civil-rights movement is its focus and emphasis on intersectionality. An intersectionality perspective takes into account that inequities are never the result of single, distinct factors. They are the outcome of intersections of different power relations, experiences, and identities. Leaders of the 1960s civil-rights movement were predominantly straight cis Black men with little inclusion of women or queer communities. The BLM movement seeks to ensure that issues affecting all black lives are prioritized, including individuals who are disabled, queer and transgender people, etc. BLM often use the hashtag “allblacklivesmatter” to reaffirm this principle. This makeup provides the opportunity for a diverse group of voices to be heard.
Social justice movements such as BLM are very successful in providing a platform for critical dialogue and discussions. This is reflected through the recent events held by Black Lives Matter-Toronto (BLMTO). Over the weekend, Toronto held its annual Pride Parade, with guests from Ontario’s Premier Kathleen Wynne to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. BLMTO was recognized by Pride Toronto as its 2016 Pride Month Honourary Group for their significant work. The group staged a sit-in midway through the Pride Parade. The sit-in was meant to bring attention and start dialogue about how black groups are represented at Pride events. The half hour halt of the pride concluded with Mathieu Chantelois, Pride Toronto’s Executive Director, signing a list of demands that included: Removal of police floats/booths in all Pride marches/parades/community spaces and commit to BQY’s (Black Queer Youth) continued space, funding, and logistical support. For more information on BLMTO involvement in Toronto’s Pride Parade, please click here.
Black Lives Matter protester speaks to members staging a sit-in at the Pride Parade in Toronto on Sunday.
(MARK BLINCH / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Whether or not you agree with the tactics of BLMTO, one thing everyone can agree on is the group’s ability to garner the attention of the media and prominent figures in different levels of government. Despite the differences in generations between civil rights activists, the driving factors for these movements remain the same: the fight against systemic anti-black racism and equal rights. However, there are some notable differences in this current wave of activism: 1) The ability to mobilize large numbers of people through social media; and 2) The rejection of a charismatic leadership (e.g. Martin Luther King Jr.). BLM is a collective movement, despite having co-founders, these individuals are not recognized as leaders of the group but rather as spokespeople.
There remains great work to be done in combatting systemic anti-black racism but the BLM movement is an exceptional example of the power of youth activism and mobilization. Despite the successes of BLM, conversations around the movement seem to overlook the important work being accomplished. Discourse around youth activism reflects the dire need for increased collaboration and inclusion of youth in dialogue regarding local and global social justice issues. Organizations such as the Mosaic Institute are incredibly necessary in providing platforms for youth. Programs like the UofMosaic Fellowship allow for students to take a leadership role in engaging their peers on their respective communities and campuses in dialogue. This in turn provides youth with the tools and resources needed for positive civic engagement.
Luula Hassan, S.M. Blair Family Foundation Intern, 2016
Luula is a fourth year undergraduate student at the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus, double majoring in Public Policy and Health Policy. Prior to starting an internship with the Mosaic Institute, Luula has volunteered with the Ontario Human Rights Commission working on a project to help engage youth in Human Rights issues. Luula is interested in migration and refugee policy, specifically, issues of resettlement and immigration detention. These interest areas were further developed through working as a Junior Policy Officer with the Humanitarian team at the Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations in Geneva. This summer, Luula will be working with the Mosaic team on theUofMosaic Fellowship Program, and will also be supporting the development and launch of an undergraduate student journal.