How One RU Student Advocates Social Justice Through Art

Jordan Geriane
Staff Reporter

Photo by Andre Hughes.

Intersectionality and feminism have been the topics of many conversations within the past few years. Inclusivity in pop culture, various multimedias and even within higher education has been emphasized due to many instances of white-washing, racial prejudices and a lack of inclusion. Highlighting the different intersections of different people, especially women, from all walks of life can transform one’s vision of empathy and understanding during a time where those ideas are thrown out the window without a second glance.

On April 8, freshmen Sophia Gallo and Grace Koeppen co-hosted a small and intimate art showcase in the Congress Lounge that spotlighted all those walks of life that are drowned out in society today; they celebrated those unique cultures of womanhood and intersectionality.

Amongst the many works of art and poetry hung about the room, one Roosevelt artist who stood out the most was freshman sociology and political science major Khaliya Jackson.

She was the only performing artist at the event, presenting two powerful readings of two well-acclaimed poems of hers.

Poised, resilient, artistic and wise beyond her years, Jackson is hopeful to evoke change within the communities around her one poem at a time.

When asked about her process on writing a collection of heavy set poems, Jackson explained that it is both a meticulous and impulsive process.

“A lot of my writing is just off the top of my head, but because I am such a critical thinker–I’m a Virgo–everything is meticulous. I’m very strategic in the words that I use, all the way down to the consonants, how many lines the poem should have, does the poem sound too harsh, or if I have this many vowels will it sound really long and flowy?” Jackson said.

She takes into account how every word pairs and compliments each other, how visually pleasing they can be to the reader’s eyes and how elegantly they flow through voice. With these strategies in mind, Jackson adds to the narrative of womanhood and intersectionality, creating a picture that is sure to invoke a powerful message.

“I think art can enhance inclusivity as well as intersectional awareness because whenever someone produces art, it is that person’s identity along with their experiences that they’ve carried throughout life,” Jackson said.

Jackson further explained that it is not only their own personal experiences that create their art or identity, but it is also what they have seen others experience.

“It is also about what others experiences or what others others experiences. You really just get this entire branch of their life within art in some aspects, and art isn’t always read in the same way, when you present it your message may not be what the audience receives,” Jackson said.  

Jackson went on, citing that the versatility in art can create different conversations about different identities in people from all parts of the world. By creating conversations through art, one can push the narrative on intersectionalities and inclusivity. By doing so, many barriers can be broken when people learn to really embrace the intersections of others.

Social justice has always played a strong role in Jackson’s life and education. According to her roommate and close friend, Alicia Callejas, Jackson was a strong advocate for social justice back in her hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

“She was the community organizer and got a big influence from her grandfather who also worked within the community. She was also the president of Black Student Union at her high school. Now, she is the secretary of RU Proud,” Callejas said.

When asked to describe her friend using one word, Callejas went with “extraordinary.”

“We’ve been together since day one at Roosevelt and it didn’t take long for us to click since she is such a genuine person with a beautiful soul,” Callejas said.

She continued, “I have never met anyone like her, she is someone who is able to embrace life and everything that comes with it, that to me is so admirable and extraordinary.”

Jackson always brings in the determination to get involved and push the narrative. Outside as well as inside of the classrooms too.

Professor Ellen O’Brien, a faculty member of both the English and women and gender studies department teaches Jackson in her gender debates course.

According to O’Brien the course is directly tied to the Roosevelt mission through its examination of gender justice through key debates and frameworks. She stated that Jackson demonstrated a strong commitment to Roosevelt’s mission of social justice.

“Through her willingness to explore new insights into issues that she is already familiar with in order to think carefully about analysis and action as elements of social justice work,” O’Brien said.

In class, Jackson is both productive and curious, and she encourages everyone in the class to deepen and reconsider their interactions with the lessons and the issues at hand.

O’Brien further explained, “Her passion is demonstrated in her intellectual and ethical commitments to intersectional gender justice.”

By writing poems and empowering all forms of art, Jackson is not only creating a voice for herself, but also a voice for others.

“I want liberation, when I talk about social justice and poetry and art I always talk about liberation. I want liberation in terms of oppression, self-development, and freedom,” Jackson said.

Her pragmatic personality and resilient wisdom opens all doors for those with unique intersections, allowing those whoever cross her path to feel embraced and empowered in the world.

Jackson said, “I want to see, I want to live in what Dr. Martin Luther King saw when he’s gotten to the mountaintop because in his famous speeches he’s said that he’s been to that mountaintop and he’s seen it, and I’m like, I want to see it too but a current version of that, I want to see it.”

Categories: Arts & Entertainment, arts and entertainment, Feature, Feature, Politics, Recent Posts, Recent Stories

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