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Ask an Activist: Gloria Merriweather
Young activists of the 1960s' participation had a major impact on the Civil Rights Movement; from school desegregation to marches, and boycotts to sit-ins to even more aggressive approaches. We reflect on former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt’s role in the desegregation of Clemson University and Clarence Graham of the Friendship 9’s sit-ins.
With the advent of social media, social justice has taken on a new role and far greater reach. These young activists (all under 30 years of age) we will profile support a broad range of causes from police brutality to education to LGBTQ rights. Each one reaching an audience beyond their surrounding area, working together, connecting causes and educating the masses.
They are the new faces of the movement for equality and are shaping how we look at activism.
Meet Activist Gloria Merriweather:
What organizations do you work with?
I've spent a great deal of time organizing with Green Peaceand the Southeast Asian Coalition over the last year.
Green Peace- Charlotte: I love working with Greenpeace because their work with environmental justice has been intersectional. They are intentional about linking their work to social just movement work like Black Lives Matter, Fight for $15, LGBTQIAP events, immigration etc. Their engagement in different areas of movement work is incredibly important to me. Movement work must be intersectional if it is going to be sustainable and Green Peace's work reflects this.
Southeast Asian Coalition: I am so grateful to be working with this group. The organization focuses on addressing the needs of Charlotte's Southeast Asian community and providing a space for youth to have a voice and feel empowered. Cat Bao Le, the Executive Director of SEAC, has developed an active program model, wherein youth and volunteers are able to engage in community building and activism, first-hand. Such as moderating City Council debates and attending 'Court Watch' for the Jonathan Ferrell murder case. These opportunities are invaluable and so enriching. I am grateful to be involved in what they do.
How has your mother influenced your activism?
My mother influenced my activism in numerous ways. She showed me how to strive, boldly, for that which others have said is unattainable. Being a Black woman, with two kids by 23, and still completing her Bachelor's, Master's, and Ph.D programs was no small feat. Her engagement in academia led to my childhood being a montage of Spike Lee films, slave narratives, and trips to Civil Rights Museums. With this being my home environment, I developed a strong moral core and an unyielding desire for justice early on.
As a self-identified “young, Black, queer, woman” what other challenges have you faced?
Being a Black, queer, millennial has come with an array of challenges from receiving hate messages on social media sites to constant harassment and fetishization. My identity is often reduced to sex and how I can be of entertainment to people. In the USA, the majority of wealth and power lies with White, heterosexual men. LGBTQPIA+ folks of color face a much higher rate of unemployment and there are very few us holding positions in elected offices. In order for the lived experiences of non-conforming people of color to change, we need to have more representation in the workplace and within the legislative branch.
How did 2012's Amendment 1 impact you?
Amendment 1 was awful. How can you deny any consenting adult the right to marry the person they love? It was a tough blow for me because I 'came out' the year prior and was still getting used to living openly. I had hoped folks would be more tolerant and that, maybe, I would be given the chance to marry the person I loved, one day. When the votes came back and Amendment I passed, I saw the world a little differently and decided to focus on achieving equality and justice for everyone because no one should have their humanity/identity denied by the State.
Thankfully, all couples can get married in all 50 states, now.
What are some changes in government and society would you like to see?
Firstly, I would like for there to be a shift in our collective, social conscience wherein upholding humanity takes precedent over collecting profits. The negative connotations around poverty, sex, drugs, mental illness, etc should be deconstructed. There needs be reform on the immigration front. No human is illegal and ripping families apart is incredibly inhumane chronically damaging.
Government should be more accessible to the people. It should be transparent and well-understood. It shouldn't be this sinister, enigmatic structure that disenfranchises those who are not lucky enough to benefit from its exploitative system.
How does social media play a role in activism?
Social media has played such a large role in my activism. It has allowed me to instantaneously connect with people I would, otherwise, never interact with. For instance, I started a Tumblr account a few months ago and I now have at least 350 people (complete strangers) across the world who I engage with, daily. Through the use of hashtags, keywords, etc. I was able to find other bloggers who are passionate about the fight for equality and justice. We exchange ideas, stories, art, and a many other things through our blogs. The relationships I've been able to develop as a result of social media have been life changing and I learn something new about the world and people every time I log in.
About Gloria Merriweather
Gloria Merriweather is an activist in the Charlotte area who has been involved in social justice movement work for the last four years. Her work has been primarily focused on ending the epidemic that is police brutality, as well as bringing visibility and a voice to the most oppressed and marginalized members of our community, such as: refugees, immigrants, people of color, and LGBTQIAP+ persons. She has traveled from Washington D.C. to New York City to Atlanta to engage in the fight for equality and justice. Her greatest hope is that more people will be inspired to fight for a system and society free of racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, etc., so that every person can experience what it is like to live in a world without oppression and intolerance.