ACPA16 Pecha Kucha:  Brittany Williams, Moving Beyond Identity Development

ACPA16 Pecha Kucha: Brittany Williams, Moving Beyond Identity Development

Do you know the Muppets? Have you heard of
the Muppets? I know they used to have, like a little person, singing “Do-do-do-do-do,
Do-do-do-do-do, Pecha Kucha. Do-do-do-do-do. Pecha Kucha is a Japanese word for chit chat
and is the name for a presentation format created in Japan in 2003 by two architects
looking for a way to share their work quickly and simply to the public. Since then the idea
has spread to over 700 cities around the world. Every Pecha Kucha night creative thinkers
come together and share their ideas with twenty images shown in twenty seconds each. Pecha
Kucha, a fast fun format. Find a location, join the conversation (music
fading out). So I need a little bit of help doing this.
Ok. I like active participation. It’s called caller response where I’m from. When I say
hashtag #, you say activist, with a T. Hashtag #. Activist. Hashtag #. Activist. Digital
activism? What is that? Is that like related to hashtag #? Activist. Is this on social
media? We’ve talked up digital activist as “slacktivist” figuring in that those of us
who are the happiest get to move through the world with our privileged mask, and when the
oppressed become online platform activists, we laugh again. Or so, the cycle has been
with closed hearts and closed minds, we’ve told our students to sit down, girl, and boy,
don’t whine, because the things you say you’re crying about, the stuff you say you’re dying
about. Racism! What! There’s a black man in the White House. That’s over. Or is it? When
hashtag# activists build their platforms on the backs of this, they bring to us what has
happened when we stop reflecting, when we start deflecting, because all of us in this
room know about student identity development. Then get on social media and say race, class
and gender are irrelevant. It took three hashtags ### to bring us back to when we could talk
about the kidnap and assault of West Africans. But I wonder how they mastered this? Who taught
Boko Haram that black girls and womens could be easily massacred? Students should have
the right to talk about this. Because we’re quick to ignore a message when it isn’t delivered
how we thought it best and things like this sound strangely familiar. It’s vaguely familiar
to the parents of children who’ve been told, “Maybe you should have raised them not to
resist.” When really we mean you have no right to exist. Or when someone says, “I understand
Lee Jones got picked but I was too tired to talk about systemic oppression that day. Because
these gates, whether real or imagined, that surround our campus don’t stop the way our
students experience these violent tongue lashes. Thanks to hashtag #. (Activist.) Their conversations
of resistance on our campuses. Yet inequality still exists in all our actions when I can
count on ten fingers and even less toes how many black and brown girls got bids from the
machine this year. It’s time to do more than revamp because our students deserve more than
these scraps. And ask Marquis Johnson. Mister, I go to UVA, how could this happen to me?
How quickly we forget about our students who can’t dribble, or force picks. I want part
of fellow Hampshire students say it’s time to warm up to divestment, but building futures take investment.
How many of us know about student identity development? Just in repetition here, raise
your hand and go back into Facebook and say race, class and gender are irrelevant. When
our students speak truth to power or raise issues within the hour and I once had a student
say she tweeted from her shower and that’s so strange, what we do social media from our
shower but no longer can we push students down hallways or silence with red tape
because many of our students see what’s happening from, to and with the other side as parts
of who they are. How many local stories became national, then international because on-line
activists made it tangible. Michael Brown, Samaya Delmar, Delaine C., Syria, the First Nations
missing women for all my Canadians in here, Flint. Digital activism takes not in my back
yard to not anywhere and not to my people to no one else kinky, curly, not today, there
will be no more silence, no, not this day. No more heritage, not hate becoming the trump
card of this day. You see what I did there. (LAUGHTER) No more blips on radar, no more
McGraw-Hill the Atlantic slave trade brought millions of workers to the US as if work doesn’t
imply back wages and that means my country owes trillions in back pay and how come I
only hear about reparations when its on a hash tag#, tweet or Facebook page? Do you
still wonder why this matters? When xenophobia can lift politicians up and encourage us to
push students down as if a country founded by Great British immigrants is somehow beyond
immigration now and students have to pick themselves up by their bootstraps that we
sold to them by the way for twenty five years of easy payments of $19.99 and with for-profit
schools and out of control interest rates, knowing that many of them who started behind
were still in the race this way. How many of us knew that America’s largest banks got
fined for practices like this? I did, I do and thanks to social media so can you, so
can we not do the same things to other people Native Americans– by saying things like “I’m
the low man on the totem pole” or wealthy people are my spirit animals because being
in student loan debt, which I have a lot of, is not the same as having your people violated.
When one begins to see their identities as inherently connected to one another, we can
draw parallels across oppressions and we can connect local struggles with global struggles
and stop waiting for problems to cross our borders when it is time for us to cross these
issues. And, goodness do we have some issues? These are kids. When the labels I love become
the labors of love that ends embraces of love, don’t tell me just it’s just social media. I learned
about this situation thanks to social media. It was not Fox News, MSNBC or anywhere else,
it was a hashtag# and a retweet. Hastag# Activist level the playing fields so we can download
knowledge and upload the revolution. It’s time to download knowledge and upload the
revolution because theory without practice and language without access makes the work
that we do half as adequate, but being the hashtag# Activist does not make me a slacktivist.
When on-line embarrassment prompts politicians to take action and forces lawmakers to make
budget transactions, and remember why it’s happening. Digital activism is generational,
not remedial. It’s time we stop treating students like it is. (MUSIC)

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