In anticipation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the nonprofit organization Survivors Speak hosted an online workshop Saturday afternoon to discuss the continual fight for justice and how to build momentum for a cause.

Trische’ Duckworth, anti-racism activist and founder of Survivors Speak, opened the workshop by emphasizing the different roles activists can fulfill. Survivors Speak was founded in 2018 to provide a platform for those who have experienced injustice and raise awareness around these inequities. Over the summer, Duckworth organized a number of protests to rally against police brutality and racial injustice. During the event, Duckworth said people can practice activism in a variety of ways, ranging from protesting on the front lines to empowering communities through education. 

“Each and every one of us has a special gift or talent to offer,” Duckworth said. “And it’s up to us to figure out what that gift is and then contribute that gift to this moment. We all have a place.”

Desirae Simmons, activist and co-director of the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, reiterated that there are many positions an activist can fill, including organizing events to spread awareness or protesting on the streets. Simmons said sharing responsibilities among activists is important to avoid burnout.

“One leader is not going to save us, know everything or always be right,” Simmons said. “And I think this is something we have to move away from, because we need more people to see themselves in the space and see that they have some role to play.” 

Simmons is also a member of Citizens for Racial Equity in Washtenaw, a nonprofit group that compiled a report in August to understand long-standing racial inequities in the legal system. The report — which analyzed over 3,600 court cases from 2013 to 2019 — found that 44.1% of people of color convicted of homicide were sentenced to prison, compared to 27.3% of white defendants who received the same sanctions.

Hakim Crampton, criminal and juvenile justice reform advocate, spoke on his experiences as an activist and offered advice to participants looking to join the effort. Crampton emphasized that young activists must first ask themselves what values they prioritize and who shares those same values. Then, according to Crampton, activists build relationships with organizations before they can provide power for their cause.

“The goal of the value that you believe in is to restore some form of justice or equity back to the people,” Crampton said. “But it ends with power. The only way you can get power is by having a commitment and committing yourself with your network and with your values and the goals that you set.”

Alexandria Hughes, Black Lives Matter and women’s rights activist and University of Michigan-Dearborn alum, said people can support activist movements by learning about experiences outside of their own social group.

“Learning and educating yourself benefits you in your personal life,” Hughes said. “It starts that healing process for the groups that you are in, whether white or Black. Implement that (learning) and make sure that you’re trying to reflect that in your societies and different social groups.”

Shelley Holt, founder of Leadership Legacy Consulting and former superintendent at Wayne-Westland Community Schools, shared her personal journey learning about the anti-racism movement. 

“If we know racism starts at home, and it continues within the circles which we surround ourselves, then the question becomes: where does anti-racism start?” Holt said. “And where are the circles for those of us who want to raise our families to be intentionally anti-racist?”

Holt concluded by noting that people have a responsibility to model anti-racist actions and behavior to their families.

“Do not fail at your job because of your passion or your profession,” Holt said. “The key to changing the world begins at home with you, yourself and your family. Your one job is to raise an anti-racist family.”

Daily Staff Reporter Vanessa Kiefer can be reached at vkiefer@umich.edu

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