By Leonardo Cervantes
The first Town Hall series on racial equity and social justice led by Rosa Clemente, focused on influential Hip-Hop and African American figures.
She is an award-winning organizer, scholar and activist. She’s been sought out for her insight and commentary on Afro-Black, Latino and Latinx identity. She has spoken about liberation movements and colonial police violence in Puerto Rico, Hip-Hop feminism and third-party politics.
“I had to truly begin to decolonize my mind. As our lands are colonized, our minds are the first ones to colonize us back,” Clemente said.
In 2008, Clemente became the first Afro-Black Latina to run for vice president of the United States on the green party ticket. She and her running mate, Cynthia Mckinney, are the only women of color to have been on the green party ticket in U.S. presidential history.
As an independent journalist, Clemente provided on-the-ground coverage of the U.S. Navy withdrawal from Vieques Puerto Rico after 67 years of military control.
“When they tell us one immigrant is more important than another one for citizenship, we must demand amnesty for all undocumented people,” Clemente said.
In Clemente’s early years, she wasn’t familiar with politics as she wasn’t taught them in school. It wasn’t until college that she read the words of Fidel Castro, Harriet Tubman, Lolita Lebrón and Sojourner Truth. During this time, the Hip-Hop movement was growing and becoming relevant in society.
She listened to it and drew inspiration from Digable Planets, Lauryn Hill, Chuck D, Public Enemy, KRS-one, The Welfare Poets, La Bruja and Dead Prez. Hip-hop was created specifically by African Americans, Jamaicans and Puerto Ricans.
“In 2023, (academia) shouldn’t be a predominantly white institution. There shouldn’t be micro or macro aggressions. Students of color shouldn’t have to fight for what they need not only to survive but to thrive.
“Right now academia is failing millions of students. It’s putting millions of students in debt that they will never get out of. We have to question why we fight to have people in power that look like us that have sold us out,” Clemente said.
The college educational system takes advantage of students, especially people of color.
“When they say free college is a pie-in-the-sky dream you say-no, this country has sent more money to Ukraine and is making more weapons rather than canceling every student’s loan debt,” Clemente said.
Clemente saw and read the work of strong activists and organizers who were able to make beneficial changes to society. Figures, such as Martin Luther King Jr., inspired her to try to spark interest in younger generations, as they once did with her.
“All my life and my work in this movement have also been dedicated to freedom for our United States political prisoners,” Clemente said.
In the last seven years, over 12 political prisoners from the1960s have been freed.
A quote by well-known political philosopher Frantz Fanon, always stuck with Clemente.
“Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it,” Fanon said.