Activist advises students to image better world

By Faith Elder - Staff Reporter

The first step to creating change is imagining the changed world, an activist said here.

Political activist, musician, and teacher Jarell Davis presented the workshop Manifest as part of Unity Week last Friday. 

Davis spoke on current and continuing issues of racial injustice, his vision of a world without discrimination, and how that vision could be achieved.

Davis said this vision of a better world can be achieved through education and changing how people see race, providing greater social opportunities for marginalized groups, and promoting expression.

"It starts at the self-level," he said. "More than being the change you want to be, but seeing you have the power to make these things happen."

Davis works with students at Rainier Beach High School, creating programs for students to expand their education during the summer, changing disciplinary policy to use violence intervention, and working to include greater parental involvement.

"We want the school to be contributing to the community and solving problems," he said. "By keeping kids in school, we are killing the root of violence."

Programs also use social media to share any work being done by the students.

"You don't think of Rainier Beach being a good place because the media only shows the violence," said Davis. "We want to show that there are also good things happening."

By changing the community's reputation and working to end violence, Davis said he hopes to see a decrease in police action in the area. 

"Black neighborhoods are disproportionally policed," he said. "It's no wonder more black men get arrested.

Davis listed incarceration as one of the greatest obstacles still facing minorities, damaging the individual and the community. His solution is banning jails and dismissing organized police, making communities responsible for law enforcement.

"No one has ever been sent to jail and then come out a better person," he said. "I'm talking about getting rid of some systems that we are so used to that we don't see the world without them."

When invited to share their ideas of a police-free world, some students disagreed on the practicality of Davis' vision.

"The fear of police itself keeps people in control," said student Divya Kapour, who proposed disarming and retraining the police.

Carissa Thompson, another group member, agreed with the police-free vision.

Thompson asked, "Do you feel, as human beings, we cannot follow our own laws?"

While some of the issues were debated, participants agreed that community involvement and greater education would improve conditions for minorities, with every group proposing some form of community outreach programs.

"It gives me hope to see all of y'all taking a stand and having opinions," said Davis.

Davis also writes and performs music under the name Rell Be Free, performing four of his songs during the workshop. Davis's music is politically driven, focused on the issues of over policing of abolition of police, racial injustice, and discrimination.

Davis said he isn't trying to become a famous musician but is using his music to inspire change in the community.

"There are enough Kanyes and Cardi Bs in the world," he said. "But artistry has always been a part of revolutions and has always had that power to change."

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