By Julian D. Johnson
Dr. Rik Stevenson, professor of African and African American Studies at Grand Valley State University, joined the Zeta Delta chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. as a guest speaker to kick off their week of Revolt. Revolt is a week of programs and events in response to the racial and political change in America held by the Men of Alpha.
The name of the speech was “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” named after the song by Gil Scott Heron. The message from the song is that the fight for equality and justice will not be something that you can take a break from and come back to when convenient like a television show, it will not be pretty, and it will not come with instructions.
He began by drawing striking parallels between the modern day abuses we see from police to slavery partly due to the fact that the first police station in the U.S. arose from slave patrol. His first example was that in 1669, the Casual Killing Act was put into place to justify the murder of slaves if they resisted their master. Many police officers of today, nearly 350 years later, use resisting arrest as their justification for murder of unarmed blacks. Also, only one slave trafficker in history was ever punished for slave trafficking. Today, few police officers are punished for the murders of unarmed black citizens.
Dr. Stevenson reminded the audience that the revolution is not new. Abuse and oppression have always been prevalent. However, the shackles are continuously being moved and tactics of oppression are constantly changing. If the oppressor’s tactics are evolving, the revolutionary’s tactics to fight oppression should evolve too. Sit-ins, marches, and riots have already been done; it’s time for something new.
The fight will not be pretty and people fighting oppression must be aware of that. He used examples of black neighborhoods being bombed in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and leaders of change being killed or imprisoned.
Dr. Stevenson warned of the phrase Make America Great Again:
“Who was America great for? Was it great for slaves? Was it great for Negroes were terrorized and lynched during the Reconstruction Era? Was it great for millions of Japanese people who were held in internment camps? Was it great for the thousands of Native Americans who lost their lives on the Trail of Tears? It was great for white people.”
Advice was given for us to get ready for the revolution. First, graduate. Use your degree to make change in your field of work and give back to the community. Second, use financial power. The reason the Montgomery bus boycott was as successful as it was is because it caused the bus company’s income to plummet. Third, watch out for people in seek of meritorious manumission. The Meritorious Manumission Act freed slaves who did a good deed for their master like saving them, healing them, or ‘snitching’ on an upcoming uprising. Lastly, go vote. Exercise your right to vote in local, state, and federal elections.
Alpha Phi Alpha will be ending their week of Revolt with the women of the Delta Zeta chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. in walk for breast cancer on Saturday October 22, 2016 at the state capitol.