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Shaun King Galvanizes Bay Area Activists

An hour before the doors opened, the line stretched around the corner, and by the time he walked on stage, the audience was was so hyped that they gave a standing ovation before he said a word.

The captivating orator in question was Black Lives Matter activist, New York Daily News journalist, and prominent social media presence Shaun King, who spoke to a full house at Oakland Technical High School on Saturday, February 11. The talk was in regards to the next steps for contemporary civil rights advocacy and effective methods for activism under the changed national circumstances.

His pop-up talk was organized with two days notice by the Fam 1st Family Foundation, an Oakland-based nonprofit founded by National Football League players Joshua Johnson and Marshawn Lynch.

At the event, King discussed police brutality and the future of social justice activism during the Trump administration. Speaking to a crowd eager to respond to national political events, he described his four-part model for activism. He explained how he aims to involve core elements of energy, time, people-power, and strategy.

Berkeley High School teacher, Chicano Latino United Voices (CLUV) advisor, and event attendee Rosa Guzman appreciated how King broke down the elements of social upheaval. Following the talk, she put his ideas into practice by discussing strategy with CLUV student officers.

She asked club leaders, “What’s our goal? What’s our purpose? What’s our strategy to cause change in our schools and communities?”

Elaborating on why King’s message resonated with her, Guzman said, “Not only is it important to demonstrate, but it’s important to know why you’re demonstrating.”

To help develop the purposeful action Guzman described, King offered advice on how to select specialized issues for effective change-making. He suggested that each audience member pick one cause that affects them personally and another that doesn’t affect them directly, and get deeply involved in both.

Event organizer Johnson explained, “[King’s] main point was that people want change but don’t know where to start.”

Johnson expressed hope that attendees left the talk with clearer activist goals and strategies than they came with.

Another component of King’s speech was placing contemporary social justice battles on a historical timeline to illustrate and contextualize his proposed trajectory of next steps. He argued that social change is not a linear pattern of progress, and that currently, the United States is heading down a metaphorical hill in terms of social quality.

Attendee and BHS Senior Athena Chin agreed with King’s analysis of regressive social change during the current presidential administration.

As for a return to progressivism, Chin referred back to King. “He said that this work cannot just be done in a few years. … I don’t even know how long it will take,” she said.

Despite this long outlook on social progress, audience members were largely optimistic as they looked back on King’s talk.

His passion, personal experience, and confidence in the capacity of local advocates was particularly empowering to the Bay Area crowd.

Attendee and formerly incarcerated activist Troy Williams summarized, “To have somebody come and break [change] down to you step by step, it gives you a new insight to what you’re faced with so that you can find a better way out.”