Activist Reina Gossett Speaks On Navigating Oppressive Institutions
Gossett reminds us to be, as June Jordan put it, “against the natural order of things”
Schools out! To celebrate the end of classes for some of you, we are bringing you a little treat.
This month, activist and thinker Reina Gossett spoke at the Hampshire College commencement ceremony in Massachusetts. She delivered a powerful speech about what it means to be navigating institutions like universities that were built explicitly to be inhospitable to those who fall outside of normative society, those of us that live on the margins, those of us that “make a way out of no way.”
In a portion of the talk, Gossett says:
“When I was in college, I was so afraid of not making an impact—of not being popular, or my teachers not thinking I was smart; of not being known by my peers, or respected. I wish these fears had gone away when I left school. But what I’ve learned is that, if anything, college is just a training ground for those fears and anxieties, which inform the world outside school as much as they do within it. As we know, we’re always moving between institutions that make us feel like we’ve gotta be the best, like we’re one step away from being a nobody. Maybe that’s college, or the company you work for; academia, or the art world; the welfare system, or public housing. All these institutions, as different as they seem, are built to make us feel less than, like we’re not enough, like we are nobody.
So maybe you felt like hot shit at this college; or maybe you felt like a nobody. Maybe sometimes you felt like hot shit…and other times you felt invisible…
I wanna say, at this college built on the premise of success–of achieving it, holding on to it, and reproducing it– that it’s okay to be nobody.”
You can check out the full talk:
The transcript is available on Reina Gossett's website.