“A change is brought about because ordinary people do extraordinary things.”
I’m starting off the month of July with a continued look at how Black Essential Workers are fighting a global health crisis and a civil rights crisis simultaneously. We begin this month by highlighting a different kind of ‘essential worker:’ Victoria Juste.
Victoria is an activist, a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority, community coordinator, and active philanthropist. It’s important to highlight activists because we need Black Leaders in our community to continue our stories and to fight for our freedom. We need passionate folks to disrupt the systems that continue to oppress our people on a regular basis. Victoria discusses Black Lives Matter, her community endeavors, and what activism means to her.
How long have you been doing activist work?
Being a member of a Black women’s organizations from the time of high school to college and having mentors who influenced me to be involved in community organizing influences my current work in activism whether in my sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., with my students, with my family and in other communities.
What inspires you?
Having the chance to support others in finding their voice, using their gifts to bring an impact to this world and elevate the voices of those who have been taught to be seen, not heard, especially youth.
What does the Black Lives Matter movement mean to you?
Black Lives Matter to me means respecting the lives of ALL Black people: all Black men, all Black women, all Black queer lives, all Black trans lives, all Black disabled, all Black people of various socioeconomic classes, all Black people of various educational levels, all Black documented & undocumented, all Black people with records, all Black teens, all Black children, and so on. We are dealing in a time where intersectional identities, especially within Black communities, must all be acknowledged with respect and where all the voices aforementioned are needed and necessary.
In light of George Floyd’s murder and the ongoing protests, how does this effect how you show up as a Black Woman?
It has caused me to show up in a way where my self-care is a revolution, where my conversations with Black youth is a revolution, where the conversations I have with my sorority sisters on the National Social Action Commission on countless Zoom calls to members and communities worldwide continues to be to me a revolutionary act. A revolution does not need to only exist on the front lines. It exists in how we all are able to show up with our gifts and our innate ability to provide exactly what is needed.
There is a great graphic entitled “My Role in a Social Change Ecosystem” by Deepa Iyer of the Building Movement Project that discusses the various roles many can take on. There are people who are needed as healers, artists, builders, storytellers, disrupters, caregivers, frontline responders, visionaries and so forth.
As a Black woman who is always working towards taking a stand for any community I’m a member of, my roles as a healer, builder, caregiver have made my work centered on the uplifting of teens, the advancement in the work of frontline responders, and the advancement of Black women being able to understand what they can bring to this movement through identifying the various ways they can show up in community engagement, advocacy, and activism.
What should our community keep in mind when actively participating in anti-racism work?
Everyone has a role to play, everyone has unique gifts and abilities that are all needed. I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of a weekly conversation with teens across the world that has inspired me to create a curriculum on community engagement through advocacy and activism.
I continue to fine tune it with mentors and friends so that the intention is kept clear of supporting teens in finding their voice and using it to illicit change. Every voice is needed. Every single one. Support others in finding out how they can participate in anti-racism work regardless of their identity. This is work that we cannot do alone.
Have the necessary conversations with family, friends, community members but also do the work necessary to bring about reforms in policy, to illicit changes on a local level and building from state to state to bring about eventual change on the national level. It takes all of us. I was on a call with many people I deeply admire and respect.
Someone asked, “what should the community do?” and my response was each one of us needs to plant the seeds to bear the fruit of justice. What it takes is figuring out what we’re planting individually so that collectively, we thrive and that fruit continues to grow more and more.
How do you practice self care?
During the various pandemics we’ve been faced with, I have taken a different outlook on self-care. I have found it necessary to nourish my body in ways that can support its ability to carry out the work that is so important. And so, I’ve committed myself to the
practices of moving my body for at least thirty minutes a day, no matter what that looks like, resting, meditating, praying, completing gratitude exercises with friends, eating foods that are meant to energize me, disconnecting at times to be fully in tune with myself. I practice self-care by listening to my mind, body, and spirit and actively heeding what each significant part has to offer me.
What activists do you admire?
I admire activists from then and now. Activists who are now ancestors that I admire are I would say Audre Lorde, Medgar Evers, James Baldwin, Nina Simone, MLK, Langston Hughes, amongst many others. My favorite activists of this time would be the ones who inspire me daily: Mickey Ferrera and Brittany Brathwaite of The Homegirl Box, Robin Williams of Redefining Soft, Risë Wilson of The Laundromat Project, Angelo Pinto, Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour, and Mysonne of Until Freedom.
In addition, Reverend Shavon Arline-Bradley and Rhonda Briggins who are the co-chairs of the National Social Action Commission of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Activism to me has meant taking action in various ways, whether through arts, dance, storytelling, healing, marching, teaching, creating and advocating for policies, resting, donating, supporting those on the front lines, in the classroom, at home, on a Zoom call or through food. There are so many ways that each of us are and can be activists. I admire these activists because their gifts are clear, their gifts bring change, their gifts gives others the space to get clear on their own innate abilities and to move from a space of clarity to a place of action.
As we work to have clarity on our roles and how we can contribute, I ask that you contribute to these two causes below either through donation of any funds or with your time, bringing your ability to be activists even more present right here and now.
I’ve been so inspired by the work especially of Until Freedom as my mentor, Angelo Pinto, along with the entire team have been doing incredible work that I’ve committed to fundraising $10,000 by July 31st to continue their efforts. I truly believe in sustaining
and nourishing the lives of those whom willingly sacrifice their own lives for our freedom. The members of Until Freedom deserve to be fed as they feed us daily. My request is that whether you are still in a discovery period of the best role for you to take on or if you are a being whom believes that other beings who willingly lay down their lives for justice should be supported, please donate to the GoFundMe I’ve created in honor of their work by clicking here.
Please donate and continue to uplift the efforts of our sister Victoria!