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Activists connect climate change and technology


With discussion of the drought, protests against police brutality and other movements occurring in the Bay Area, The Community Movements Panel recently aimed to provide students with insight on what it means to make a difference.

The April 7 panel was led by four influential Bay Area women; Daphne Muse, Nancy Hernandez, Dr. Susie Lundy and Akua C. Jackson have all spent much of their lives working for social justice. During the dinner and discussion in the Mills College Faculty Staff Lounge, they shared their experiences, challenges and knowledge to help attendees with their own social activism.

The three main topics discussed at these events were the challenges being faced when working towards social justice, how technology has changed in reference to social movements and the drought in California. The Diversity and Social Justice Resource Center hosted the panel — a part of the Inclusive Community Series at Mills College.

Muse has spent her lifetime as an educator, writer, and as faculty and director of the Women’s Leadership Institute — which was cancelled when Muse left — at Mills until 2009. Hernandez currently works with the Estria Foundation and is the project manager for Water Writes, a program that paints murals to promote the public’s right to free water. Dr. Lundy works with a number of organizations including the Estria Foundation and Youth Speaks, an organization that uses arts and different engaging activities to help youth use their voice and make social change. Jackson is currently the executive director of Youth Speaks.

During the event, Marissiko Wheaton, who works in the Diversity and Social Justice Resource Center,  facilitated the night and asked the panel about challenges and advice for people to stay fresh, motivated and energized.

“Anger that fuels activism is a double-sided sword,” Dr. Lundy said. “To be really effective, we have to be self-aware and watch if we are using the same methods we are angry at; anger is useful, but it’s also toxic.”

Jackson shared what she thought was a big challenge for herself, which was maintaining relationships.

“Challenges I have found are with relationships. You have to find a way to live your own life and at the same time be making time for what it is you want,” Jackson said. 

Muse brought up the drought as one challenge we see today and specifically, what the drought means in a long-term perspective.

“We can’t do squat without water,” Muse said. “California’s drought is creating an essential act of activism to bring us together in a way we haven’t before. People are forming alliance with people they never thought they’d form an alliance with.”

Technology was also a discussion point, including its role in today’s generation. Hernandez mentions that while there are useful apps that we can download to alert us whenever we pass by a historical landmark from women’s history, we are losing the energy and strength from when technology didn’t exist. 

“This idea that we no longer know each other’s numbers, talk to each other, we send each other Facebook events — it’s a challenge,” Hernandez said. “We find it hard to express to each other where technology isn’t available.”

The four women each continued to remind the audience that social activism is in their own DNA; it’s their purpose and what they have been living for. They all agreed that they are working for the next seven generations.

“I had a future; I owe it to all of you to give you a future,” Muse said.

 Throughout the event people snapped their fingers and nodded.  Andrea Juarez Mendoza, a current Mills student who began the nonprofit Youth Life Philanthropy in 2003, took the floor to comment.

“The message I got today was so affirming,” Mendoza said. “I’m at the point in my life where I need to make a choice of what I need to do. Today it’s been affirmed and the message is loud and clear.”

Mills Junior Margarita Sanchez was also moved by the panel.

“It was very insightful,” Sanchez said. “It made me reflect on my own participation, not only in past experiences, but how to use everything that was shared.”