“A Movement, Not a Moment”
Writer: Aditya Joshi
Editor: Ayaan Parikh
The Black Lives Matter has received a recent uproar in support from cities in all 50 states and countries around the world with so many people taking initiative to create change. One of those people who is having a massive impact in our own city is Jianna Cousin. Cousin, a Black student from Wichita who attends Clark Atlanta University, a Historically Black University. Her efforts stem far beyond her education, as she works as a mentor at Save a Girl, Save a World, the owner of Jianna Cousin Photography and as an organizer of many campaigns in Wichita to support Black voices, especially those of women and youth.
Cousin has been the epitome of a youth advocate ever since her participation in the Mayor’s Youth Council. Her involvement in the council was especially impactful because she got to travel to conferences across the nation (for free she adds) where she met others who were also interested in topics like voter registration, red lining, and gentrification, all issues that plague the United States, but also Wichita, Kansas. She suggests that other youth who wish to get involved in the community join the council and participate in any way they can to not only organize their own initiatives, but also help with existing efforts in the community.
In regards to her upbringing in Wichita, she notes that Wichita is one of the most racially segregated cities in the United States. She recalls the wise words of her grandfather who told her, “You may have it worst than some, but better than most.” Her success in advocacy in high school led her in the direction of Clark Atlanta University, an HBCU which has helped foster many relationships for her across the country. She looks back on scrolling through her social media feed where she saw her friends from many different states uniting together around the Black Lives Matter movement and protesting for change. Furthermore, she remembers the impact of attending this college being further than growing her network, but also in the lessons that she has learnt there. One of those, she learned from the renowned Professor Daniel Black, an author who learned the importance of giving names to characters in stories about slaves, portraying them for who they actually were, enslaved people, rather than slaves. Although there are an innumerable amount of these stories and lessons, she notes that these experiences at Clark Atlanta University have helped her evolve as a person, student leader, and activist.
In addition to being a student and activist, Cousin is a business owner and artist. Her work includes a large collection of photography. She focuses these pieces largely on minorities and people of lower socioeconomic status, but attempts to highlight the deep cultures and positivity of each and every one of the people pictured while taking a break from the spotlight traditional media gives them which focuses on the oppression they face. She hopes that her next project will entail the ongoing pandemic and the sacrifices that essential workers are giving for all of us to stay safe and well.
The most important aspect of her activism stems from her advocacy of Black lives. Most recently, she organized a very successful protest with her close friends to support and elevate the voices of Black youth on the systemic racism that is prevalent in our society. She hopes that her impact goes further than this protest, by being a role model for other youth, more specifically Black youth to look up to. “You can’t be what you can’t see,” she says, while she works to be visible to Black youth around the nation in her grass roots organization efforts. The Black Lives Matter movement is just that, a movement, and we cannot take this as one moment in our history, but a continuous revolution for equality of Black people.
From speaking to Jianna, we can understand three things, first is that in our society, change is necessary on many levels to combat systemic racism, second is if change is going to happen, it will be youth led, and finally, is that we should never be afraid to take a step forward to create change, even if we are alone in our stand. Whatever we may be passionate about, it is important to act, and take risks to create positive change in our cities, states, nation and world. So, let us foster our passions, innovate ideas, execute, and finally, in the words of Jianna, “let’s get it”.