Myself and fellow Her Campus member Emily, along with 400 other students, faculty, and community members, packed into the SURC ballroom on Monday night to listen to activist Shaun King share his ideas and advice on social activism in our country.Most of you may know him from his profile picture popping up on your twitter timeline. Or maybe you’ve read some of his published articles about systematic racism in the U.S. But as I learned on Monday night, Shaun King is so much more than what we see him as and what is known for through social media.
Shaun spoke on that specifically when addressing the audience at the beginning of his talk. “When I wake up in the morning, I don’t see myself as a celebrity. That’s foolish” King said with a shake of his head. He doesn’t see himself as a “figure on social media” like so many of us portray him as. He opposed all those views by solidifying “I literally think of myself as a husband, a father, and so on. So what I do, I do through that lens”. Just like the husbands, fathers, wives, and mothers who have lost their significant other or child to police brutality, that is how King sympathizes with them and advocates for their justice.
That lens began in 2014 when King was working for a corporation called Global Green. The turning point that made King into who we know him as today is due to a video sent to him by his friend of Eric Garner being choked to death by police in New York. He went into detail about how disturbed to his core the video made him feel. From there on out, the “trajectory of his life was changed forever”. He went on to quit his job at Global Green to become a full time activist. He attended Morehouse College where he received a bachelor’s in History. This history background is where the base layer of his activist path stems from. King gave us a short presentation about the historical global patterns of humanity and violence. There as periods known as “the dips” as he likes to call it. These are periods such as slavery, WWI followed by WWII, and even dating back to the Viking era. These dips that happen throughout history is the period we currently find our nation in. These trends are supported by historical research and timeline plotting that King shared with the listeners.
While his visit was viewed as controversial from a majority of the local Ellensburg community, that was not his intentions in the slightest. He made it very clear multiple times through out the night that his sole purpose of visiting was to have a discussion as well as learn from one another. There’s no denying that King is outspoken about the injustices in our country. Many have criticized him for his viewpoint on our current president and the government. Some of those criticizes coming from Ellensburg community members. As a local Ellensburg native myself, it makes me feel embarrassed to be from Ellensburg when people show so much hate and close mindedness. I think their actions further prove that King and people with similar beliefs as him are all the more needed in our community to encourage open mindedness and spark progressive conversation. I think King said it very well “Many people are tempted to say that Donald Trump put us here and I understand that thinking, but he was elected because we were already there”. We as a nation have found ourselves in this “dip” for too long now. That makes us ask ourselves, how long will we stay in this dip? King left us hopeful by saying “It’s possible to get out of this dip. Humanity has proven it possible time and time again. It’s not easy, but it’s possible”.
I went into this talk with the mindset that I wanted to walk away with new perspectives as well as feeling inspired to take more actions towards activism on my own. I feel like that has been fulfilled for me. He was undoubtedly a pleasure to listen to. I enjoyed how well-spoken he was. I’m greatly proud of CWU as well as thankful for bringing such a progressive and relevant speaker to our community. Ask yourself what ways you can contribute to getting our nation out of the dip. They don’t have to look exactly like Shaun King’s. They can be something little or something big and entirely your own. Just ask yourself, how can I contribute to the change?