by Aaliyah Roulhac
Busch student center’s Center Hall was humming with quiet chatter and excitement as over 200 people had gathered to hear Sister Souljah speak. There were people gathered in the front corner of the room and taking seats on the steps and floor because all the chairs had been filled. She was dressed in all black, her dark hair swept into a high bun and her piercing eyes observing the crowd, as she sat waiting to give her speech. In celebration of Black History Month, the Africana Department, in participation with the Paul Robeson Cultural Center, hosted a talk with Mayor Ras Baracka and the influential Sister Souljah on erasing the color line in society.
Although people of various ages, titles and backgrounds congregated to hear her talk, Souljah’s address was for the black students in the room and focused on the responsibility that they held as community members, social activists, students and individuals. The author, who hailed from Rutgers University herself, opened her speech describing her humble beginnings in the projects of New York, her family’s move to New Jersey and her experience as an undergraduate student at Rutgers.
“It doesn’t make any sense to be at such a wonderful place lost and confused, when this is the exact place where you can gain the knowledge that you need in order to become conscious and aware, to liberate your mind, to cleanse out your emotions, to claim your history and place inside of the world,” said Souljah when speaking on the university experience.
Souljah urged students to take claim of their history and also their futures, whether that be for individual success or for social activism. “I set my mind this way: what I want to learn is what I need to learn to become useful. Not what they require me to do, but what I require of myself and what I need in order to bring something back to my people that will help us break out of the current condition that we are in,” said Souljah.
The activist spoke on the importance of educating yourself when taking on injustice and the need for plans of action when getting things done as a collective. She was not afraid to critique today’s college students either, as she remarked that they are too individualistic and get too caught up on their own rise to success that they forget about their communities that need help.
Souljah, who helped lead the anti-Apartheid movement at Rutgers in the 1980s, said, “I am not advocating fear but I am advocating organization, intelligent planning, follow through study and sacrifice… When you sacrifice, all things that stimulate your own desires- that’s going to the party, going to the game, you’ve got to cut back on some of those things.”
On that rainy Tuesday night, Sister Souljah inspired all of those who came to hear her speak and left, with the students, some of her wisdom in what it means to be truly “useful” in today’s society.