Carmelo and Colin’s Guide for the WOKE student
Trill or Not Trill?
The students are back! After this tumultuous summer some are undoubtedly going to be a little more socially conscious than when you last saw them. I’ve already had students approach me about programming around racial tension and discrimination. They’ve come to me asking questions and as a former student activist myself and a current administrator, I’ve tried my best to provide some great answers. If your student or students are WOKE, meaning they are socially aware and prepared to speak up against prejudice and injustice, they’ll need help to stay focused and avoid serious trouble. The woke student leader is in a tricky position because they represent the university or a particular constituency group of students. What should I say and do and how should I say and do it are questions swirling in their mind.
This brings us to Carmelo Anthony and Colin Kaepernick. The NY Knicks star has been vocal on the past on issues and has also marched alongside protesters in his home town of Baltimore. As an NBA and Olympic player with multiple endorsements, he’s taken a first step that many athletes of his stature haven’t done. He opened the dialogue. San Francisco 49er quarterback, Colin Kaepernick recently made the decision to not stand during the national anthem. He stated, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” Both players have stood up and made statements with reactions being mixed. I encourage all my students to be someone who is not afraid to speak up AND work on solutions. If you need a little help figuring out where to begin, here’s Carmelo and Colin’s Guide for the WOKE student.
Everyone isn’t going to be on your side
Here’s the first part of being woke. If you want to protest something do know that this will be the result. You could be MLK or Harvey Milk. You could be Susan B. Anthony or Rosa Parks. From young girls in South Africa protesting their right to speak their language and wear their hair natural to students raising their voices on college campuses, people will not agree with you. Kaepernick got his jersey burned and Melo received threats online. Your friends might not see your point. Your advisors might not agree with your methods. The school might completely disagree with your concerns. This doesn’t mean you have to stop. This helps you assess your next moves. Having people against you, opens the door for more dialogue. It allows you to see potential points that you may have missed as well. This is a not about appeasing everyone, it’s about taking a stand for something you believe is not right.
People are allowed to disagree
Don’t get mad at people who disagree. A protest will rile folks up. You have issues with something and people will have issues with you. One thing I respected about Kaepernick was that through it all, he maintained a respectful demeanor in the public. As students, remember that you’ll be getting push back and hearing critique from everyone including, mentors and friends. Don’t worry about that. This isn’t the time to get angry, work your hardest at focusing on the cause and intellectually clap back when necessary. The internet is filled with trolls and others who will fight you tooth and nail. In the same way that you’re passionate and have the right to protest, so do they. Don’t get caught up in that web or else you may never get out.
Use Social Media Effectively
So often we use social media for casual entertainment. It’s a great place to catch up with friends, be artistically inspired or simply to get some good laughs in. As the summer was bubbling with issues of racial tension, intolerance and brutality, Carmelo set it off on Instagram. By this I mean, he called out his fellow athletes to step up and push the dialogue.
Starting the dialogue on social media isn’t that hard. Create yourself a hashtag and get moving. Dedicate a full day or two on snapchat to the cause. Go on IG and flood timelines. Get other people to repost. Social media can be great for social events but it can also be the place for social consciousness too.
Understand the Consequences
This might be one of the most important lessons to learn. Although the teams that Carmelo Anthony and Colin Kaepernick play for have shown support for the most part, that doesn’t mean your school will. Players run the risk of losing fans and endorsements. A high school football player was recently suspended for kneeling during the anthem. I remember leading a protest in college and shortly after, receiving a phone call that my job as a Resident Assistant was in jeopardy. Depending on the actions you take, there may be immense backing or huge ramifications. Understand what risks are in play. Depending on your position, you may lose your job as RA or Orientation Leader. If you’re passionate about the cause recognize that possibility and have a plan in the case that something like that happens.
Sometimes you’ll feel alone but you aren’t.
Colin Kaepernick was all alone when he sat down. It’s a scary feeling to have. There will be other times that people you’ve never met or least expected show up to stand alongside you. A number of players from the WNBA joined in with Carmelo in expressing their thoughts by wearing black t shirts in awareness for Black Lives Matter. Not long after Kaepernick’s initial protest, US Women’s soccer player Megan Rapinoe also knelt. As stated earlier, there will always be two sides to the coin. One day you’ll be sitting in your class or residence hall room and wondering if standing up for what you believe in was the right choice. As those thoughts race through your head, every time you feel alone, remember that there are others out there rooting for you and in full support.
Find some friends to support
Carmelo reached out to his buddies on the basketball court for support and they showed up. Not only did they take the ESPY stage with him, but they made public statements of their own. They didn’t leave Melo out there by himself.
When an issue on campus arises, understand that you can’t do it alone. Now you might one of the few people who believe in the good fight. That doesn’t matter, cordially call out your fellow leaders. Bring the concerns to the forefront and you’ll see who’s down and who’s not. Even if it ends up being one other person, don’t worry. The two of your voices will matter.
Use your platform
Both Melo and Kaepernick are athletes playing in major cities for major sports teams. There is never going to be a right time to protest. Your platform is everything. When the people are watching is when you’ll be raise the most awareness. As a student leader you’ll have a platform somewhere. It might be a club meeting or organization event. You might be able to speak to people at a general Student Government meeting or a board meeting in front of faculty and administration. When the stage is set don’t be afraid of the light. You’ll likely get some backlash. Some will say this isn’t the time or place. Others will say you’re creating a distraction. If the platform is given you just may have to force the issue. (Advisors and administrators, you don’t always want to see this). It won’t be the most popular decision but it will certainly introduce and raise the volume.
Stand firm but don’t be afraid to adjust
Colin initially decided to sit down during the anthem. After receiving criticism for how his stance may have offended veterans he sat down with a former Army Green Beret. This led to him still changing his protest. He went from sitting to taking a knee. Kaepernick stood by his stance but made some adjustments. As a student, don’t be averse to listening to others. A difference in opinion doesn’t mean complete objection to your cause. Be open to adjustments if it helps you move towards a solution. At the end of the day, it never hurts to listen. You may not get what you seek but there might be an alternative.
Call to Action
Protests and expression are the first step. Solutions are the next. Those come a lot easier on a college campus than they do outside of it. Go into any situation with a plan for what comes after the initial point of contention. Carmelo made an IG post then eventually led a town hall meeting to discuss solutions. Colin Kaepernick donated 1 million dollars as well as earnings from his jersey sales. Don’t just talk the talk but also walk the walk. Don’t just speak about it, be about it. The dialogue will be ongoing but if you aren’t enacting plans of change and putting boots to the ground then you aren’t doing enough. Start creating events or forming committees. Host a rally or set up meeting with administration. Create specific goals or demands and make sure they are met.
Do your research
Carmelo Anthony isn’t the first person to speak up on race issues and police brutality. Young activists all across the world have been doing what Melo did and more. Before Colin Kaepernick sat down there was Mahmoud Abdul Rauf, Craig Hodges, Tommie Smith, John Carlos all made political statements as athletes. Whatever it is you’re fighting for, make sure you know about the history of the concern. Know the root of the issue. Is this the first time something like this has happened on your campus? Understand that your institution will be prepared with plenty of information and potential solutions. You have to be ready for all of that and the only way to do so is to be prepare with you own
Find Your Balance
Remember that you are a student first. Pay attention to your studies. Play those video games or watch your favorite Netflix series. Colin Kaepernick is still focusing on practice and playing football. Carmelo Anthony found reprieve while playing in the Olympics. You might find yourself overwhelmed but always make sure to take care of yourself.
MrJeffDess is a writer, professor, public speaker and emcee of Haitian descent. He is an author of 5 books of poetry, including his latest, Trill Motivation With over ten years of performing and student affairs experience under his belt MrJeffDess continues to strive towards helping students reach their highest potential. For booking information, contact MrJeffDess at firstname.lastname@example.org