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Credit: Biruk Tibebe

The Civic House invited scholar Camika Royal to Houston Hall to discuss effective methods for activism in the current political climate.  

On March 13, the professor and Director for Innovation in Urban Education at Loyola University Maryland encouraged the audience to question systems that perpetuate inequality, particularly racial inequality. "Laws and policies are never neutral and they are never beyond question,” Royal said.

Royal spoke for this year's Alvin P. Gutman Public Scholar Lecture, an annual Civic House event that invites a noted scholar to inspire guests to actively seek social change. 

Previous speakers include Dean John Jackson of Penn’s Social Policy and Practice Department, University of Illinois at Chicago professor David Stovall, and Nadinne Cruz.

She also challenged students to enact proactive change through "risky, disruptive, and creative schemes" instead of lukewarm support.  

“Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute understanding from people of ill will," Royal added.  

College senior Madeline Dahlin said she attended the event because she has attended lectures like this before and is interested in social justice.  

Dahlin said some aspects of Royal's speech seemed particularly relevant to Penn students and their activism methods.

“Her questions about ‘what are you willing to risk?’ and ‘what are you willing to lose?’ are really important, especially as so many Penn students are on a track to get somewhere," Dahlin said. "It’s hard for students to take jobs that don’t pay as well or are in the non-profit world."

Dahlin added that she fears many Penn students fall into a trap that Royal mentioned where people "support various causes on social media but in their personal actions aren’t willing to be involved in those factions." For example, she noted that she thinks rallies in Philadelphia are poorly-attended by Penn students.  

Civic House director David Grossman also addressed Penn students' participation rate in activism and said many students involve themselves in community service.  

Grossman said students could contribute by “educating themselves on the immediate area around Penn and become engaged with community organizations in an ongoing way.” He also encouraged students to take courses that explored some of the issues Royal addressed.

Jamere Brown, Westchester University junior, said he agreed with one of Royal’s arguments, summarizing, “If you’re not all the way for social justice, you’re basically in the way.”

During her talk, Royal emphasized that activism is an ongoing struggle with no clear end.

"Social justice is a process, not necessarily an outcome," Royal said.  

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