How a Winter Internship Broadened My Understanding of Social Movements – The Cavalier Daily


I took a media studies course called Race, Protest and the Media with Asst. Teacher. Shilpa Dave and Prof. Camilla Fojas during the January term of this year. He framed contemporary movements through the prism of historical movements and incorporated the study of how media can be used strategically to gain visibility, amplify a message, or challenge a social norm. This course allowed me to reflect on how social issues affect the intersectionality of my personal values ​​and experiences with important aspects of social movements, such as community.

I was drawn to this course primarily because of the relevance and timeliness of the topic, as I could put this course in conversation with current events, such as the Black Lives Matter protests, and even more recently, the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6.

Through the class’s insightful projections, images, articles, and guest lecturers, this course has broadened my understanding of social movements by providing insight into the intellectual history that informs contemporary movements, as well as various cultural forms of artistic expression, such as the music, art and rhetoric that many social movements use to achieve their goals. For example, the BLM movement is heavily influenced by the contributions and political framing of the Black Panther Party movement, such as the raised fist which is now used as a symbol of the BLM movement.

Furthermore, many of the themes of this course are evident in different social movements and the protest rhetoric of university students. Last fall, there was a sign on the lawn that read “Fuck U.Va.”, which is an example of protest rhetoric against the legacy of racism at University. This caused controversy, but also gained momentum as other students showed solidarity in support of this message. Similarly, there are also requests from the Young Democratic Socialists of America and the Black Student Alliance in driving change at the University.

Through this course, I was able to reflect deeply on ideas that were already important to me, such as community and social justice. But I was also able to develop a new perspective on the history and nature of the protest. Together, I can better appreciate the achievements of previous communities who have worked collectively to produce change in their social movements.

A commonality that was evident in many of the social movements we focused on was the importance of collective effort. I have always had a deep appreciation for community, which was intensified when I studied abroad in London, and I had the opportunity to reflect on connectedness in the community as I immersed in a new group of students. This course has emphasized the need for solidarity in the community — social movements are group efforts and need everyone’s participation and support to be successful.

In my own life, community has always been the intrinsic support gained from being part of a group of like-minded people. Last summer, at BLM protests, my friends and I often talked about how we felt – how helpless or powerless we sometimes felt. But as a Floridian living in this mostly conservative state, it was empowering to see the effects of a handful of protesters in Pensacola, manifested by the construction of a memorial on one of the city’s bridges.

Beyond this reality of protest and conflict, I cannot help but dream of a society where racism and all other forms of discrimination do not exist. It is idealistic, but it is a necessary ideal. Often we are discouraged from dreaming of a visionary or utopian society because we will not see it in our lifetime. Some will say it’s just not doable, but I don’t believe that’s true.

This course gave me more hope for the future because the prospect of a society that is not riddled with prejudice and injustice seems more attainable. Many social movements begin with the work of grassroots organizations. I can personally become more active in community organizing here at the University, and I urge all students to do the same. Movements are stronger with mass participation and support – it is our responsibility to fight the battles of this generation.

Yasmin Teixeira is a life columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be contacted at [email protected]


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