College students should give back to the community, a scholar-activist said at Highline’s Unity Week recently.
Rosa Clemente, a 25-year activist and community organizer, spoke at Unity Week, Highline’s annual celebration and exploration of diversity.
“As scholar-activists, we have the responsibility to give back to the communities,” she said.
After experiencing the school-to-prison pipeline in her first year of teaching, she said she didn’t want to be a part of it.
Taking up community organizing was her way to help this problem, Clemente said.
Clemente attended State University in Albany, New York and was a part of Albany State University Black Alliance, A.S.U.B.A.
The alliance was where she said she learned how to be a leader, organizer, and learned more about Puerto Rican and black studies.
“We went to student council, telling them that they aren’t giving clubs that were ran by blacks what they needed compared to clubs ran by non-blacks,” Clemente said. Clemente is currently finishing her doctorate at W.E.B. DuBois Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Clemente took part in the Black Lives Matter movement, where she said she “wanted to present Afro-Latinx.”
She is of Afro-Latinx descent but said she had a hard time being accepted in the black community.
“We have to deal with black community,” Clemente said. “Blacks are all over the world. Our history does not begin at colonization.”
During her college experiences, she said she wanted to help put Puerto Rico on the map. After hurricane Maria, Clemente went to Puerto Rico to help with the community.
“How do we not become a colony anymore,” Clemente said. “Hurricane Maria showed us what we can do without the American government.”
“You always have to do work in the community,” Clemente said. She also was the vice-presidential candidate on the Green Party ticket in 2008.
Helping put Puerto Rico on the map, being a part of the student alliance and being a community organizer is Clemente’s way of setting an example for future scholar activists, she said.
“Black studies, ethnic studies, feminist studies are the frontline for students of color,” Clemente said. “Exposure to people of color teaching their classes gives a sense of empowerment.”
“A scholar activist isn’t just about telling your campus but telling everyone what you see,” Clemente said.