Interview with Jade Griffin, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the mvmnt.
As a contribution to Black History Month, HC3’s newest community partner Jade Griffin, co-founder of the mvmnt. discusses what the month of observation means to her.
What is the mvmnt.?
I started the mvmnt. as an activist group and registered student organization on the campus of Illinois State University (Bloomington, IL). After a screening of The Kalief Browder Story, I thought students needed a space where they could discuss the harsh realities of police relations with communities of color, while also looking for a solution. The goal of the mvmnt. was to convene students of different races and ethnic groups to discuss current events.
As a new non-profit organization, the mvmnt.’s mission is to empower and uplift underserved youth as a means to combat oppression, marginalization, and threats to their safety. To that end, the organization focuses on skills building, civic and community engagement, arts education, and the curation and facilitation of safe spaces for its constituents.
How would you best describe your mission and vision for how the MVMNT can make an impact in the Chicago community?
My vision for the mvmnt. is for it to be something like a second home for the youth in Chicago. I personally feel that large communities of color can sometimes be overlooked or ignored, so my goal is to change that for the current generation of youth and the next. The goal is to create a space that is 100 percent catered to the betterment of their futures, however that may look. I want them to have a place where they can come and access whatever help it is that they may need, whether it be academic, mental, physical, spiritual, or financial. I want to make sure they never feel as if there are no options to do or be better than their current circumstances.
You are currently finishing your undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice, what have you learned and how do you think your studies will influence your work in leading the MVMNT?
Working in the criminal justice field, I have learned about the great disadvantages people of color have within the justice system. It is a fact that one in three black males will face some type of incarceration in their lifetime, as compared to a one in 17 ratio for white males. There is a clear bias against people of color within the system, and my goal is to eliminate that. I believe that what I have learned will greatly impact my work with youth because I already have an insight into how the justice system views them, and I believe I will be able to help guide them down a path opposite of what may already been predetermined for them.
What is the importance of Black History Month and what does it represent to you?
I think the importance of Black History Month is the fact that we even need a Black History Month. Our history is not fully taught in most high school curriculums, and cannot be found in most historical textbooks, but is instead reduced to being celebrated one month a year – the shortest month of the year.
Black History Month is the chance to highlight just how lost our country would truly be without Black people and the excellence we bring, despite our struggles. I believe that it is our chance to prove that regardless of how much we are demeaned, belittled, and undermined, we will still continue to come out victorious. We make our voices heard, fight for what we believe in, while never shying away from who we truly are. This month is proof that the naysayers never actually have the last say, because we are bigger than our circumstances.
What is your advice for people to honor and celebrate Black History Month?
Some advice that I would give to those looking to honor and celebrate Black History Month is to listen and be understanding. Listen to what those around you have to say about their experiences, while also understanding that you cannot rewrite history. Sometimes people can get caught up in why Black History Month exists, and what makes us so special? However, I think if you really listened, the answers would be clear. This month is not a special opportunity for us to be recognized more than another race, but instead a chance to tell our side of history and how we have been able to pull ourselves out of situations not meant for our survival.
What opportunities do you think there are for HC3 members – providers, companies, and community organizations – to engage in social justice efforts in the community and behalf of their employees?
There are many opportunities that HC3 members can take advantage of on behalf of their communities and employees. They can self-educate by reading various books and articles about Black leaders and movements, watch documentaries that highlight Black history, as well as join, volunteer, or donate to organizations geared towards Black succession.
Jade Griffin started the mvmnt. to give Illinois State University students an opportunity to stand up for what is right and sit down to discuss the issues. The organization was originally organized around campus-based events and discussions about inequities, so students could step outside their mindsets and stand to understand differing opinions. In the last year, the mvmnt. has begun extending its reach to encompass underserved youth in the Chicago area; aiming to give these individuals a voice, advancement opportunities, and a safe space to discuss the issues most important to them.
Jade is an undergraduate student studying Criminal Justice Science. She is a Youth Development Professional at the Boys and Girls Club of Bloomington Junior High, a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, as well as a member of the Rainbow Push Coalition.