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#ReclaimMLK: 5 Radical Dr. King Quotes You’ve Probably Never Heard

kingMartin Luther King, Jr. was indeed a great leader of the Civil Rights Movement and activist for social change. He is more than deserving of a holiday and should definitely be commemorated. However, America has often remembered Dr. King in a diluted way. In school, many of us learned about a passive Dr. King, that chose love and non-violence and just like that, the country followed. Now, we’re all equal.

That’s not true or realistic. Dr. King was not passive at all. He directly called out and challenged racism and unjust systems. He was civilly disobedient, being arrested 30 times. Even with his non-violent philosophy, Dr. King’s call for justice and change was still rejected and ridiculed. Many people hated Dr. King, so much so that his house was bombed, with his wife and newborn child in it, after a threat “to blow up (his) house and blow (his) brains out.” The FBI tracked Dr. King’s every move, tapping his phone lines and naming him the “most dangerous and effective Negro leader in the country.” And let us not forget that U.S. government agencies were found guilty in conspiracy for Dr. King’s assassination (but people rarely want to talk about that). Even through all of this, Dr. King continued to fight for what he believed in, in a radical and revolutionary way.

So if you find yourself saying that activists of today “need to be more like Dr. King,” please realize that we are striving to do just that. We continue to challenge, protest, and call out injustice, despite how many tell us we’re wrong, hate us, or use violence against us, just like they did Dr. King.

Today, let’s remember Dr. King for the revolutionary he truly was. Here’s 5 quotes to help us do that:

  1. “I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without first having spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government.” -Martin Luther King, Jr., Why I am Opposed to the War in Vietnam (1967)
  2. “But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard.”-Martin Luther King, Jr., The Other America (1968)
  3. “When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” -Martin Luther King, Jr., Where Do We Go From Here? (1967)
  4. “Whites, it must frankly be said, are not putting in a similar mass effort to reeducate themselves out of their racial ignorance. It is an aspect of their sense of superiority that the white people of America believe they have so little to learn. The reality of substantial investment to assist Negroes into the twentieth century, adjusting to Negro neighbors and genuine school integration, is still a nightmare for all too many white Americans.” -Martin Luther King, Jr., Where Do We Go From Here? (1967)’
  5. “Non-violent protest must now mature to a new level to correspond to heightened black impatience and stiffened white resistance. The higher level is mass civil disobedience. It is a concept well known in our struggle for justice. There must be more than a statement to the larger society—there must be a force that interrupts its functioning at some key point.” -Martin Luther King, Jr., Worldview Introduction (1972)



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NOT My Birthday Suit: An Open Letter to Sally Hansen® on Racist Nail Color Name

Dear Sally Hansen®:

FullSizeRender (5)I was in a wedding and in need of a neutral nail polish. I came across your Miracle Gel color, Birthday Suit. I was initially drawn to it because it was just what I was looking for, but when I read the name of the color, I was taken aback. I thought it was interesting that someone would choose this name, even though everyone’s “birthday suit” is not that color. Birthday Suit is not the color of my “birthday suit.”

I am a program coordinator for multicultural education at a university. As we teach our students about diversity and inclusion, and strive to develop their multicultural competence, we often talk about microaggressions. Naming this polish Birthday Suit is a microaggression.

Psychologist and Columbia professor, Derald Wing Sue, Ph.D., defines microaggressions as “everyday slights, indignities, put downs, and insults that people of color, women, LGBT populations, or those who are marginalized experience in their day to day interactions with people.” Microaggressions are often perpetrated by members of dominant groups and done so unconsciously, without negative intention or ill will. Microaggressions can (amongst multiple effects) make the dominate group seem “normal” while making anyone outside of that seem abnormal or as the “other.” Well, that is how I felt when I read the name Birthday Suit. I thought to myself, surely, they know this is NOT the color of all of their consumer’s birthday suits. It was frustrating and disappointing, but not shocking, because unfortunately, I have been dealing with this type of subtle racism my entire life.

The cosmetic and fashion industries are infamous for using “nude” to describe colors similar to Birthday Suit; so much so that some people think of “nude” as a color, without actually realizing that it is the nude color of a dominant group, white people. For decades, despite its discriminatory nature, brands and companies continue to use “nude” to describe their products (shout out to Nubian Skin for countering this and providing women of color with “a different kind of nude”). It is even more disturbing to know that until just two months ago (thanks to the Nude Awakening Campaign), Merriam-Webster defined the word nude as, “having the color of a white person’s skin.” So you see, there is already an issue here.  That is why it is so disappointing and frustrating to see a color named Birthday Suit in 2015. Instead of fixing this issue that has long existed, Birthday Suit reinforces the problem AND diminishes another commonly used term (as done with nude), that everyone could once relate to, to now only describe the color of white people’s skin.

I understand that your company may not have intended to make me feel excluded or offended. That is often the case with microaggressions. However, I do not want this to be an instance where you explain how this was not your intention and we move on. Why? Because this is not just about nail polish; it is about addressing a type of bias that happens every single day that many are unaware of or ignore. It is important that we as a society start acknowledging the reality of microaggressions and their effects, and do something about it. This is a chance to do something; our chance to do something.

While we do not experience as much broad, overt racism as we once did, there is still subtle racism (often in the form of microaggressions) that can do just as much (if not more) harm. In today’s day and age, most people consider themselves to be “good people” who are well intended, fair, and do not discriminate. However, this situation is a prime example of how good people can be unaware of their bias, act in a discriminatory manner, and hurt people of color. People think we ended racism when we stopped overt racism (slavery, Jim Crow laws, etc.) but that was only a part of the battle. We will not see race relations improve again until we become aware of and acknowledge the subtle biases possessed within our hearts and minds; the subtle biases that still cause discrimination.

I ask that you use this as a teachable moment and educate your organization on microaggressions through diversity trainings. I also ask that you change the name of the Birthday Suit color. And finally, I ask that your organization launch a campaign going against the idea of “nude” or “birthday suit” being one skin tone and leading the way for change in the cosmetic and fashion industries. I am more than willing to continue this conversation and be a part of these solutions. Please let me know how I can help. I look forward to hearing from you soon. Thank you for your time.FullSizeRender (5)


Aleidra R. Allen, M.A.


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Aleidra Allen on HuffPost Live- 11.24.15


Watch Aleidra on HuffPost Live (Aleidra speaks at minutes 4:29, 10:29, and 12:23)

On November 24, 2015, Aleidra Allen was featured on a HuffPost Live segment. She shared perspectives on Donald Trump’s most recent comments about “roughing up” Black Lives Matter protestors. Aleidra speaks at minutes 4:29, 10:29, and 12:23.

**Unfortunately, Aleidra experienced technical difficulties throughout the segment. We apologize for those instances.

WATCH: Trump Rhetoric Getting Uglier

From HuffPost Live website: After his supporters attacked a #BlackLivesMatter protester at a rally, Donald Trump responded by yelling, “get him the hell out of here.” How is the increasingly vicious rhetoric out of the Trump camp affecting the national political debate?

Hosted by:

Alex Miranda


Rebecca Sinderbrand (Washington, DC) Politics Editor, Washington Post @sinderbrand

Michael Calderone (New York, NY) Huffington Post Senior Media Reporter @mlcalderone

Aleidra Allen (St. Louis , MO) Student Involvement Center, Saint Louis University @klassy_lei

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Aleidra Allen on HuffPost Live- 11.12.15

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Watch Aleidra on HuffPost Live (Aleidra speaks at minutes 4:10, 10:51, 17:34, and 20:13)

On November 12, 2015, Aleidra Allen was featured on a HuffPost Live segment. She shared perspectives on police body cameras. Aleidra speaks at minutes 4:10, 10:51, 17:34, and 20:13.

WATCH: Philadelphia Latest To Expand Police Body Cameras

From HuffPost Live website: Police body camera footage helped indict two officers who killed a 6-year-old boy in Louisiana, and now Philadelphia is planning to expand their use. Is it time for body cams to become a standard feature in American policing?

Nancy Redd

Aleidra Allen @klassy_lei (St. Louis , MO)
Student Involvement Center, Saint Louis University

Chris Rosbough @Chris_Rosbough (Tallahassee, FL)
Criminal Justice Program Director, Pegasus

Jamira Burley @JamiraBurley (Washington, DC)
Senior Campaigner, Amnesty International

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Are Black Women Too Independent, Angry to Have a Man? Let’s Talk About It.

Meme shared on Facebook that inspired Aleidra to write this piece.
This meme (left) really bothers me. It bothers me because it perpetuates the stereotypes of black women being too independent, angry, having a bad attitude, undesirable, less than, etc. These stereotypes continue to be perpetuated by white and black people (the meme was brought to my attention from being shared by black men), and  I am frustrated to specifically see black men degrade black women in this way.

It frustrates me because people who perpetuate these stereotypes give little consideration to what could make black women be perceived as “angry,” or lead them to take on this “strong and independent” mentality. They do not consider how black female slaves often had their husbands and children torn from them (sometimes an enslaved man or woman pleaded with an owner to purchase his or her spouse to avoid separation), forcing a level of independence and emotional impact. They do not consider how to this day, black men are incarcerated at 6 times the rate of white men and serve exponentially longer sentences, again forcing a level of independence and emotional impact. They do not consider how in America, black women have a net worth of $100, having an unemployment rate that unlike most other demographic groups, continues to rise, and a wage gap that even a college education cannot bridge. They do not consider how society continues to remind people that black women are not beautiful, setting beauty standards and norms that are the exact opposite of black women’s natural being (light skin better than dark, straight hair better than curly, thin body better than curves…and when curves are accepted, they are sexualized as if that is all a curvaceous woman is good for). They do not consider how common attributes of black women’s personalities and culture are often deemed as “unladylike” and wrong (expressing your opinion, being “loud”), leading some men to actually believe that black women are indeed undesirable. Hopefully you can see that many aspects of our society have contributed to this perception of black women as angry, too independent, and too opinionated.
It’s unbelievable that if a black woman falls short of overcoming all of these societal obstacles that she faces, if she so happens to fall victim to this oppression, then she is blamed for being angry, having a bad attitude, and not knowing how to accept having a man. It’s so ironic that black women are expected to be strong enough to thrive in a society where they are disadvantaged all around, but are then chastised for being “strong and independent.”

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Comment left on Facebook post of meme.
Is this meme supposed to “help” black women stop having an attitude and stop being (too) strong and independent? If so,
it’s counterproductive because all it does is make black women actually angry, and rightfully so. If black women see black men share this meme openly, all it does is make black women defensive, and possibly feel the need to be more independent, because we are being generalized, our character is being attacked, and we are being portrayed as less than women of other races.

How are we as black women supposed to take this? This meme lets us know that we can add (some) black men to our list of obstacles because instead of advocating for us against these stereotypes and ideas of black women, instead of fighting against the systems and oppression that contribute to these stereotypes and ideas of black women, instead of loving us through any emotional or mental impacts and insecurities that we have because of these stereotypes and ideas of black women, black men will now join in on keeping us down.

We are in a movement for black lives right now. We’re trying to make the world believe that black lives really do matter– and not only in regard to police brutality. The movement is about gaining freedom and equality from ALL systems and beliefs that disadvantage, target, omit, and oppress black people, and this is one of them.

Even in this movement, we see black women being disadvantaged and left out. That’s why some have taken additional steps past “black lives matter” to say black WOMEN’S lives matter, and use hashtags like #SayHerName.  It’s so unfortunate to see this omission because many black women are on the front line advocating and fighting for black men against police brutality. It is so sad that black women can’t get that same support from black men, even with something as simple as not spreading social media memes that degrade us.

Another factor of this meme could be society’s definition of masculinity and “being a man.” Our society teaches men, in general, to be tough, stoic, acquisitive, and self-reliant. Psychologists have stated how this can lead to, “aggressive, emotionally stunted males who harm not just themselves but their children, partners and entire communities.” So what we see happening is (black) men trying to live up to this social construct of masculinity. But, in order to reach it, men are (maybe unintentionally) chastising (black) women for being too strong and acquiring their own things, not because it is wrong for (black) women to do, but because it takes away from men’s concept and fulfillment of masculinity.

This shows a need to redefine masculinity (with a new definition that includes a range of human emotion, is more flexible than dichotomous) because men’s quest to fulfill this societal norm is hindering (black) women. So, while I do not agree with the perception of black women that this meme portrays, I am acknowledging the potential roots of the perception, with the hope that if we are aware of these social constructs, we can learn to love each other through them, instead of using them to put each other down.

No doubt, there are probably black women that display some of these stereotypical characteristics, just like there are women of any other race that probably show these traits. But maybe she is showing them for a reason. It’s problematic that some black men are choosing to stereotype black women and write them off as undesirable partners instead of considering why she may act this way, or more importantly, their possible role in why she is acting that way (specifically on a one-on-one basis, in a romantic relationship). I guess it’s a lot easier to criticize the black woman based on the negative perception she’s been given by society than to look at yourself and ask what you may be doing to yield that type of response from her.

There is a thin line between a black women not putting up with a man’s crap and being angry, (too) strong, and (too) independent. Just because a black woman does not say “yes” to everything you want or doing everything your way does not make her “angry.” It just means she expects (and will not settle) to be treated as the queen she is.

#BlackLivesMatter Politics Race Social Justice

The Huffington Post Asks Aleidra Allen What Question She Would Ask Candidates at a Democratic Debate

“Both the Democratic and Republican National Committees have agreed to give their blessing to a presidential town hall set up by activists in the Black Lives Matter movement. But organizers within the network have said that gesture isn’t enough. They want the parties to devote one of their official — and more high-profile — debates to racial justice issues.”

Aleidra, along with 5 other black activists and organizers, posed the questions they would ask candidates at a Democratic debate on racial justice issues. Check out the questions and full article!

Article by Philip Lewis, Fellow, The Huffington Post

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Aleidra Allen on HuffPost Live- 10.22.15

Watch Aleidra on HuffPost Live (Aleidra speaks at minutes 6:41, 14:27, and 20:37)

On October 22, 2015, Aleidra Allen was featured on a HuffPost Live segment. She shared perspectives on the discussion of the Black Lives Matter movement during presidential debates, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) promoting a Black Lives Matter town hall meeting, and the recent burning of churches in St. Louis, MO. Check it out below (Aleidra speaks at minutes 6:41, 14:27, and 20:37)!

WATCH: HuffPost Live Segment- DNC Agrees To Promote #BlackLivesMatter Town Hall

From HuffPost Live website: With the Democratic National Committee agreeing to promote a presidential town hall hosted by the Black Lives Matter movement, we discuss how candidates should approach the social justice campaign and how much it will affect the upcoming election.

Hosted by:

Alyona Minkovski


Julia Craven (Washington, DC) HuffPost Politics Reporter

Elle Hearns (New York , NY) Central Region Coordinator, GetEQUAL; Strategic Partner, Black Lives Matter

Aleidra Allen (St. Louis , MO) Student Involvement Center, Saint Louis University

Martese Johnson  (Charlottesville, VA) Activist


Janelle Monàe cut off while sharing message about black lives on ‘Today’

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Aleidra Allen on HuffPost Live- 8.11.15

Watch Aleidra on HuffPost Live (Aleidra speaks at minutes 9:50 and 23:23)

On August 11, 2015, Aleidra Allen was a special guest on a HuffPost Live segment. She shared perspectives on what Dr. King described as the “white moderate,” and the role of empathy in the Black Lives Matter movement. Check it out below (Aleidra speaks at minutes 9:50 and 23:23)!

WATCH: HuffPost Live Segment- Black Lives Matters Protesters Shut Down Bernie

From HuffPost Live website: Senator Bernie Sanders left a speech this weekend after Black Lives Matter protesters took over his campaign event. We discuss the criticism that #blacklivesmatter is alienating potential allies and the role of the movement in 2016 politics.

Hosted by:

Alyona Minkovski


Jamil Smith (New York, NY) Senior Editor, The New Republic @JamilSmith

Ben Cohen (Washington, DC) Editor and Founder, @thedailybanter

Jamie Utt (Tuscon, AZ) Contributing Writer, Everyday Feminism @utt_jamie

Aleidra Allen (St. Louis, MO) Program Coordinator for the Student Involvement Center, Saint Louis University; Student Involvement Center, St. Louis University @klassy_lei

#BlackLivesMatter Social Justice

The March Continues: One Year since Ferguson

Seems like just yesterday and 10 years ago all at the same time. Regardless of how you feel about the methods, the people of Ferguson (and STL) brought attention to a systematic issue that has been unnecessarily taking lives for decades. I am so thankful for the people of Ferguson/STL, and thankful that 365 days later, the movement still lives, and now all over the country.

What’s most unbelievable is how many hashtags we’ve had to create for unarmed, black people killed by police just over this past year. Unbelievable. But maybe now, a year and so many names (people) later, more people can see and understand the issue.

Today, I’m thinking of #MikeBrown and saying a special prayer for his family, and all families that have lost loved ones to police brutality. I hope they can find some peace in knowing that change will come from their sacrifice.

It’s been a long, challenging year. I never imagined myself being a part of a movement like this….protesting, volunteering, blogging, presenting to staff/students, none of that. But I’m so thankful for living in St. Louis, and for the passion I’ve developed for eliminating oppression.
I hope this movement has taught many empathy, and that it continues to do so. Just because something is not your reality, doesn’t mean it’s not someone’s reality. And just knowing that it’s someone else’s reality, is (should be) enough reason to care.
The march indeed continues.