By Dr. Shenika Hankerson
During the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Baptist minister and civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the powerful and iconic speech “I Have a Dream.” In this speech, King depicted the struggles of African Americans and reflected on his dream for equality. Yet, in 2018, this dream of equality has not manifested. Violence and systemic racism toward black people is still an issue in the U.S. To combat this issue contemporary movements, such as the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, hold public protests speaking out against black racial inequality. The “Worth Striving For” Spoken Word by Blake Washington joins and extends these black liberation speeches and protests. In fact, in the “Worth Striving For” Spoken Word, Washington draws on the theory and practice of digital activism in order to offer one of the most thought-provoking critiques of the injustices committed against African Americans.
Reflecting on The Assignment
As Marcela Fuentes notes, digital activism is a “form of activism that uses the Internet and digital media as key platforms for mass mobilization and political action.” This type of activism “amplifies off-line demonstrations” and “provides new ways to engage protesters.” In a Fall 2017 themed version of English 225 (Academic Argumentation) entitled African American Protests: Then and Now, students were asked to create a digital site of protest that attempts to address some of the Black racial inequalities that are still prevalent in U.S. and/or global contexts. Washington used YouTube, a video-sharing website, to successfully create his digital site of protest. By doing so, he was able to share his gripping and inspirational spoken word on race, rights, equality, and the African American experience with peers, friends, family, and the world. Furthermore, by doing so, Washington was able to gain the skills in and understanding of digital composition and activism which was a key objective of the course.
“Worth Striving For” Spoken Word by Blake Washington offers a riveting critique of the racial injustices against black bodies. As Washington rightfully notes in his written analysis of this work, racism is still an issue in the U.S.; thus, much more progress needs to be made. “As I explained in my video, we’re naturally wired to discriminate based on looks. We have to consciously make the decision to go against our natural responses, and do what’s uncomfortable and, sometimes, what hurts” (Washington 2). Washington’s words speak to the changes that need to be made in our schools, neighborhoods, and communities. Furthermore, Washington’s words show that he was able to create a compelling and meaningful digital work of art while also engaging with the “real world problems and struggles of marginalized people of the world” (Morrell 114). As Ernest Morrell tells us in Critical Literacy and Urban Youth: Pedagogies of Access, Dissent, and Liberation, it is important for students to be exposed to a critical composition pedagogy, such as the pedagogy that Washington was exposed to, that allows them to critically write both the word and the world.
Fuentes, Marcela A. “Digital Activism.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 25 June 2014, http://www.britannica.com/topic/digital-activism.
Morrell, Ernest. Critical Literacy and Urban Youth: Pedagogies of Access, Dissent, and Liberation. Routledge, 2015.
Washington, Blake. “‘Worth Striving For’ Spoken Word Written Analysis.” University of
Michigan: English 225, Fall 2017. 1-3