Blog Entry Youth Development, Education, Narrative Change

Reinvented: In Honor of Our SHE-roes

by Ernest Butts

I never would have thought that I would be in the field of social justice as an innovator, and leader in my own way who is committed to social justice on various levels. I have been able to assume several roles that put me in a position of leadership, something that seemed so foreign to me just a year ago. 

Social justice initiatives and advocating for better outcomes have essentially become a part of my life. In a matter of a year, I have managed to assume several roles that have influenced me as a individual; from becoming a senator for the student government association at my school, to assuming the position of a college assistant/CUNY BMI leader at my college Stella and Charles Guttman Community College. I also became a CUNY BMI fellow for the Campaign for Black Male Achievement working on the operations team. 

Many of the positions I have had the chance to assume throughout the year have propelled me exponentially and allowed me to realize this is what I want to do as a career, and that the fight for improvement on various levels is what I live for. 

Being a Campaign for Black Male Achievement fellow that is fighting and advocating to ensure a brighter future for individuals like me has allowed me to realize this. Through assisting the CUNY BMI program at my school with events; keeping our core together; helping many of the mentors who dedicate their time to make sure we graduate African Americans and Latinos at higher rates; and even participating in the student government’s fight to better the experience of many of our college students, have all helped me to now see my calling. As I look back, being a leader was not my initial calling, I wanted to live a simplistic life. It was not until my senior year of high school where I say I found my purpose. 

It wasn't until 12th grade going over a feminism unit in literature class where I realized my purpose. In that year alone, I had realized I was a feminist after reading two books: The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler and Assata Shakur: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur. Feminism, or the idea of someone being a feminist, seems to be a very taboo topic to talk about on a wide spectrum but it is a quite simple idea. 

Feminism is just the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes. This fundamental idea or theory is very frowned upon in a society full of prejudices and discrimination. My exposure to the “The Vagina Monologues” allowed me to extensively see the struggles for women locally, nationally, and globally. As I learned their varied experiences, I was able to internally empathize with women. I was able to visualize and identify the fundamental injustices that women have to rebel against. Assata Shakur’s biography exposed me to her struggle and her will to continually fight amidst struggles that inspired me to idolize her as a leader. Assata Shakur, a revolutionary, a visionary, a powerful black woman and a feminist. Her story, from her run in with state troopers, to Assata being one of the only women on America’s Most Wanted list and her running away to Cuba has cemented her in my eyes as one of the greatest leaders. Her story tells everyone what it is like to be both black and a woman in America. 

Everything about both books helped me realize that I am a feminist and will push forward to achieve social justice across the gender spetrum.

I wouldn’t have discovered these books if not for my literature teacher Sorel, who helped expose my literature class to both the struggles of women and African Americans through both works. As a feminist and in my role at the Campaign for Black Male Achievement, I hope to not only improve the lives of Black men and boys, but also teach our young boys and men the social conditions women have to undergo day to day. 

As a young man raised by his mother and grandmother, I believe that educating our young boys and men on issues women face creates societal change and a more just society. 

Like the great Fred Hampton said, “you can kill a revolutionary but you cannot kill a revolution”. As we go forward creating, in a sense, a “revolution” and the more our leaders (our revolutionaries) continue to teach our young men and better their lives, the more it will illuminate within society. I hope our message of equality for all will forever be embedded in their minds.


Ernest Butts is a Campaign for Black Male Achievement CUNY BMI Fellow, and is currently a sophomore at Stella and Charles Guttman Community College (CUNY). 

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