Speaking justice into reality: the language of liberation from racismby Jan Janes on Mar 20, 2020
Gavilan College’s quiet study room filled to capacity to hear Dr. Kamilah Majied reframe the English language to better describe four hundred years of history.
Majied, a professor in the Department of Social Work at California State University Monterey Bay, first welcomed her audience. Passing a microphone, one by one the audience introduced themselves and invited people of color, including ancestors, to the larger conversation.
Diana Carranza introduced herself to Dr. Majied and the audience, then invited a person
of color, perhaps an ancestor, to join the conversation.
To reframe language, Majied suggested that meditative and reflective practices help. “Some practices are all action and screaming,” she said. “Others turn our gaze inward, feeling with the whole body, noting how our minds respond to different words associated with racism.”
“When we honor history months,” she said, “We are honoring interdependency of all peoples who have brought the circumstances we find ourselves in today.”
Exploring history, she asked the audience to move out of the abstract and identify the contributions of black people, noting where, besides language, racism is seated.
People of color are the global majority, and Majied asked the audience to rethink the language of white European descent.
“We can undo this racialist hierarchy by avoiding the language of the hierarchy,” she said, one that continues to makes it more valuable to be brown than black, and more valuable to be white than brown.
Using the word 'slave' to describe people - builders of the White House, the era's writers, authors and freedom fighters - denies other aspects of their person. Majied suggested instead, to say they were 'in slavery.'
“Step into the truth,” she said. “The Founding Fathers were traffickers participating in enslavement.” Rather than calling them slave owners, she suggested calling them enslavers.
Taking a pose suggested by the guest speaker are Ryan Shook, Student Life
Coordinator, student Alexis Rivera, Dr. Kamilah Majied and Jacquelyn Richberg,
coordinator of the Career Transfer Center.
“How do we speak it out of existence?” asked Majied. “If we use liberating language to give us a broader vocabulary, it won’t be the same words we are using now.”
Majied expressed a wish for everyone to stay buoyant as humanity goes through global changes. She closed with a quiz:
· Who was the Haitian/Puerto Rican American graphic artist who used epigrams in his style?
· Who wrote Raisin in the Sun?
· Who was the first woman to run for US president?
· What Kentucky-born civil rights leader turned the National Urban League into an aggressive civil rights group?
· Who was the Minnesota-born singer famous for blending R&B, soul, rock and punk into a new genre of music?
· Who wrote I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings?
· Who was the engineer who received 57 patents associated with steam engines?
Dr. Majied read a poem a student wrote after participating in the workshop.
Dr. Kamilah Majied is the author of Joyfully Just.