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Activist Dr. Ron Daniels’ ‘Journey’ Brings Him to Howard for Panel Discussion

By Hadiya Presswood, Staff Reporter

Community organizer Dr. Ron Daniels discussed his book “Still on this Journey: The Vision and Mission” written about his experiences with community organizing and activism on Tuesday, Jan. 28 in the Founders Browsing Room. 

Daniels is the president of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century, a resource center that serves to “promote greater cooperation, collaboration and joint work among grassroots, activist and action-oriented organizations that were doing similar work but were disconnected from each other.” The Institute provides information, strategies and resources to keep separate organizations informed of each other’s work in order to promote a culture of collaboration, stability and strength in numbers.

Daniels sums up its importance saying, “We may be working on exactly the same thing without talking to each other. That is fundamentally unsound. It does not make sense for us to not be consulting with each other.”

The moderator, attorney and activist Nkechi Taifa, introduced Daniels and gave an overview of his book, and then gave the podium to Daniels to discuss the overall themes. 

The themes Daniels discussed were identity, victory and struggle, politics, cross-generational participation, gentrification and reparations, and pan-Africanism. He was also sure to quote and call the names of those who inspired him such as Malcolm X, Alex Haley, Dr. Maulana Karenga and Dr. Martin Luther King.

Daniels talked about his experience as Jesse Jackson’s campaign manager and the particularly difficult role of building the interior structure of the Rainbow Coalition campaign. He spoke on the challenges he faced during his election bid, and explained that ultimately, the struggle is worth the reward.

“The victory is in the struggle, it is in the striving, in their [our ancestors] name and in their memory. That’s how we heal ourselves,” said Daniels.

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He talked about the Institute’s State of the Black World Conference that occurs every four years, which was hosted on Howard University’s campus in 2012. This year, it will be in Newark, New Jersey, and he urged the Howard community to show support with a busload of attendees, with an emphasis on an organized, cross-generational group. Historically, socio-political movements started with young people who had plenty of time, few obligations, and were less conservative in their views and actions and Daniels stressed the importance of making sure youth voices were integrated into the movement. 

“Young people need to be mentored at a certain level because you just don’t read a book and get involved. You need to give people the basics on how you do basic community organizing. But you must also put people in a position where they can lead and learn and succeed and fall and learn and process,” said Daniels. “I don’t so much worry about whether or not elders will let you lead, at some point, you organize young people and you lead.”

Following the book discussion, Dr. Julianne Malveaux, economist and president emeritus of Bennett College, and Dr. Gregory Carr, chair of Howard University’s African-American Studies Department, were invited to sit on a panel with Daniels. Much of the discussion was about the impact of having first-hand experiences with prominent activists and how to pass along information to the next generation.

Many of Howard University’s students are self-proclaimed grassroots organizers, activists, advocates and scholars, and frequently rally behind their community.

“I think one of the biggest impacts is the ability to archive black history in a way that is accessible and a way that is accessible to us, like all the information that we’re used to having, be accessible to us. Books are one way to do that,” said Ivy Kerebo, a political science major from Nairobi, Kenya. “I think [Daniels’] visit on this campus does that in a way that is very pertinent to how research is done and continues to be done in the future, especially coming from one person’s perspective and what sources can be found. That’s the biggest part of research, is acquiring sources; you can use archived sources but [you can also] be a source and be able to build in academia and black education and black theoretics.”

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