Radical simply means grasping things by the root
Youth play a crucial role in bringing about social change. So often, history tells the story of adults at the forefront of transformative social justice movements, but young people have long been present in fighting for equal rights. Organizing strategies like protesting in the street to raise awareness, creating and lobbying for legislation to protect marginalized communities, or brainstorming creative interventions and solutions to sustain civil rights, have historically involved youth. The Radical Monarchs offer examples of ways that young leaders can guide us today.
The wisdom, creativity, and spirit that young people bring to activist spaces can often inspire new avenues for addressing inequality. For example, during the Civil Rights Movement, young organizers formed the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). This student group came up with the idea to conduct sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina in the 1960s to protest state-sanctioned segregation laws known as Jim Crow Laws. Additionally, in 1968, Mexican-American high school students organized a series of protests and sustained walkouts to protest the systemic unequal educational opportunities. This strategic movement, known as the East L.A. Walkouts, resulted in changes to curricula, policy, and practices meant to enhance educational opportunities for Latinx students. Historically, young people have been at the forefront of social change movements — the Civil Rights Movement, the Anti-War Movement, and the Anti-Apartheid Movement to name a few. To learn more about the role of young people in social movements, see our resources section at the end of the discussion guide.
What makes the Radical Monarchs’ approach to youth activism so unique is how young they are. Often, youth activists haven’t become involved in social or political movements until they are teenagers, and this activism often extends through their early twenties. The Radical Monarchs, however, teach us that the power of young girls’ leadership and activism can start as early as the 3rd-5th grade.
Social Justice and Resistance Movements
For as long as there has been systemic injustice in this country, there have been organized resistance movements led by the oppressed, towards justice. Resistance is an integral part of Americans’ continued struggles for equality and dates as far back as the 1700’s. Rebellions organized to resist the violence of white slave owners were planned by
enslaved people (like the Stono Rebellion of 1739, Nat Turner's 1831 rebellion, and Denmark Vesey's planned insurrection in 1822). Considerations of justice and the societies that determine what justice looks like, must always be examined from an historical perspective within its historical context.
Today, social justice is sometimes defined as "the objective of creating a fair and equal society in which each individual matters, their rights are recognized and protected, and decisions are made in ways that are fair and honest” (Oxford Dictionary). Since the United States was historically built on a system of violence (i.e., colonization and slavery) that gave power to white men, it is important that social justice movements interrogate the lingering impacts of that system and understand which communities are most affected by the unequal distribution of power. In this sense, social justice is a specific fight for equality guided by the experiences of those who continue to be impacted by an unequal justice system in American society. As a political goal, and as an active practice, social justice is a continued commitment and movement in direct opposition to historical systems of power that threaten the safety and limit opportunity for the most vulnerable among us to thrive, to flourish, and to live. Social justice is a verb that requires active participation and consciousness of interlocking systems of injustice and the histories at their foundation.
Resistance movements highlight a necessary commitment of balancing historically imbalanced scales of “justice;” and to reckoning with nuanced and differing inheritances. In order for power to be redistributed and for people to thrive, identity must be included in conversations about how certain communities and people have been, and continue to be, impacted differently under contemporary ideas of “justice.”
The Radical Monarchs define Fierce Sisterhood as a strong love and bond between women and girls who have a healthy, interdependent friendship. In order for a group of people to create social change; trust, vulnerability, and reflection is required to push through challenging situations. Focusing on Fierce Sisterhood helps the Radical Monarchs cultivate powerful bonds between troop members and leaders. When times are challenging, Fierce Sisterhood “empowers these young girls of color to stay rooted in their collective power, brilliance and leadership to make the world a more radical place” (Radical Monarchs Vision Statement).
Centering Fierce Sisterhood as an organizing principle allows this group of young, women of color activists to have solidarity as they fight for change. The idea of Fierce Sisterhood was influenced by scholars like bell hooks, Particia Hill Collins, Cherríe Moraga, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Toni C. Bambara who have guided the work and practice of the Radical Monarchs. For the Radical Monarchs, Fierce Sisterhood is a motivating force that brings women, and girls, of color together to support and advance each others’ right to thrive and address the oppressive systemic conditions that are specific to their shared identities. In this way, Radical Monarchs are in alignment with a long legacy of radical women of color who have named the specific conditions they experience and highlight the importance of organizing to fight for the rights of women who do not benefit from feminist movements that center white women.
Hill Collins, Patricia. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1990.
hooks, bell. Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center. Cambridge: South End Press, 2000.
Moraga, Cherríe, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Toni C. Bambara. This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. London: Persephone Press, 1981.
Oxford Reference, s.v. “social justice,” accessed June 9, 2020. www.oxfordreference.com/.
Race Forward. What Is Systemic Racism?. YouTube, 9:00, accessed June 4, 2020. www.raceforward.org/videos/systemic-racism.
“The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).” The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, June 5, 2020. https://www.archives.gov/research/african-americans/black-power/sncc#:~:text=The%20Student%20Nonviolent%20Coordinating%20Committee%20(SNCC)%20was%20founded%20February%201,the%20nonviolent%20teachings%20of%20Rev