Tamika Mallory, esteemed social justice leader, political activist and advocate for human rights, recently delivered the 2022 address for Maryville University’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration.
The event also featured guest moderator Jasmine D. Evans, an award-winning public relations strategist who has dedicated her life to helping individuals become the best versions of themselves.
Mallory spoke about the importance of voting rights. Recent legislation in Congress would make it easier for all Americans to vote and reverse efforts by several states to limit ballot access. Senate Republicans have prevented the legislation from advancing after months of debate.
“What’s happening right now is disgusting and painful,” Mallory said. “We need to look at history. The civil rights leaders before us fought as hard as hell to get our right to vote. It took work and sacrifice, and people being shot down. A major failure of recent generations is that we’ve gotten too comfortable. The history wasn’t constantly taught and reinforced. We need to understand there is power in voting.”
Mallory urged all community members to get involved in activism to create change. It’s particularly important, she said, for young people to seek ways to get involved. Those individuals have had a front-row seat to the murder of George Floyd and other tragedies via their cell phones and social media feeds, a phenomenon not previously experienced.
“Every time a Black man or woman is caught in a situation of devastation, there’s a piece of us that’s ripped apart,” Mallory said. “Why? Because most of us [as Black people and people of color] understand, ‘That could be me.’”
Her remarks discussed her experiences as the co-chair of the inaugural Women’s March in 2017, the most galvanizing and largest single-day protest in U.S. history. Mallory’s leadership helped highlight women of color following the inauguration of former President Donald Trump.
She also spoke about Ferguson organizer Tory Russell, who fought against police brutality following the shooting of Michael Brown, and how his leadership helped ignite the Black Lives Matter movement.
“If you’re not involved in a meeting, if you’re not giving your time or a dollar amount, then you’re not serious about getting us to a better place as a world and a society,” she said. “We all have to find our place in the movement. That’s the only way to find peace amid the trauma. Part of the path to healing is fighting for what we know is right.”