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Rosa Clemente talks activism, election in Eaton Chapel lecture

Lilly Calvert/The Round Table

Lilly Calvert/The Round Table

Hip-hop activist, political organizer and leading scholar on Afro-Latinx identity Rosa Clemente imparted to Beloit students and community members the importance of education and activism in the face of systemic oppression during her speech on Friday, Nov. 4.

Autumn Gant ‘19 heard Clemente speak this spring while attending the American Multicultural Student Leadership Conference at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and soon after began working to bring Clemente to the Beloit campus.

Clemente appeared as part of the college’s #GetWoke series, the goal of which is to contextualize nationwide issues for the campus community, and through her own speaking tour, called “If I Was President.” On her tour, she has visited campuses across the country to speak about activism and social justice issues, as well as campaign for Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein.

In a talk titled, “From Minority to Majority: New Era of Social Activism,” Clemente spoke about her own experiences in college, where she was exposed for the first time to an accurate history of the U.S. College was also where she first encountered the reality of systemic racism and where she joined minority student organizations, through which she found her first opportunities for political activism.

She explained that the history of oppression is deliberately withheld from most high school students, who are instead fed a “false narrative of a post-racial society.” This prevents young people from questioning the status quo or becoming empowered to resist it.

Clemente stressed to Beloit students the importance of our college educations for challenging that narrative, but warned, “don’t use your degree to be part of the system.” Instead, “break racism within [your] field,” because she believes every environment harbors prejudice.

Clemente also criticized President Obama and Hillary Clinton for neglecting to give substance to discussions of institutional racism, and discussed the economic oppression that she feels motivates many Donald Trump supporters.

After her speech, she opened the floor and answered questions from audience members about intersectionality, how to get started in political activism and the recent student occupation of Residential Life.

A South Bronx native and third-generation Puerto Rican-American, Clemente is a graduate of the University of Albany and Cornell University, and is currently a doctoral student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

In 2008, Clemente became the vice presidential nominee of the Green Party as the running mate of former Georgia Rep. Cynthia McKinney, appearing on the first all women of color ticket in U.S. presidential campaign history.

Clemente’s academic work focuses on national liberation struggles in the U.S., with a spotlight on The Young Lords Party, The Black Panther Party, the Black and Brown Liberation Movements of the 1960s and ‘70s and the effects of the FBI’s COINTELPRO on such movements. She also works as an independent journalist, covering issues of national liberation from the frontlines .

Gant was excited that her hard work had paid off and to see the Beloit community’s enthusiastic reception of Clemente. She told The Round Table that she hopes those who attended the session will understand the effect they can have on an institution if they do the required work, and that while everyone has an opinion on the way Beloit is running, it’s getting involved that’s necessary.

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