Youth and human rights activist Malika Sanders will discuss “Principles of Social Justice for a New Generation” in a Nov. 8 lecture at UNC’s Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History.
The free, public talk constitutes the center’s 12th annual memorial lecture honoring Sonja Haynes Stone, a UNC professor who came to Carolina in 1974 to chair the fledgling department of African and Afro-American studies. She participated actively in the establishment of a center for black culture until her death in 1991. The event begins at 7 p.m.
Sanders, an accomplished activist and community leader, has fought for change on local and international levels. At age 21, she was appointed executive director of the 21st Century Youth Movement, a nonprofit organization based in Selma, Ala., that was created in 1985 by civil rights veterans. It focuses on youth empowerment, leadership training and community service and, under Sanders’ guidance, it has grown into a 1,500-member organization of high school and college students with 35 chapters in the U.S. and three in western Africa.
Participants have established a credit union, helped prevent a landfill from polluting a community and secured referendums that created more resources for local schools.
In August 2003, Sanders was one of three young adult conveners of the 40th Anniversary of the March on Washington. Two months later, Essence Magazine tagged her as one of “50 Women Who Are Shaping Our World.”
Sanders’ work with 21st Century has brought her a Martin Luther King Freedom Fighters Award, the Ashe Youth Leadership Award, a 2002 Reebok Human Rights Award and a 2003 Redbook Mothers and Shaker’s Award.
Sanders’ experience as a leader emerged long before she assumed the top post at 21st Century. At 16, she co-founded Student Movement Against Racial Tracking (SMART). The group gained national attention by protesting the inequitable practice of “ability grouping” and inspiring high school students and their parents to temporarily shut down a Selma high school. As a result, the city changed its policies to accommodate a more objective and inclusive process for black students.
Sanders also worked to organize the National Hip Hop Political Convention in Newark, N.J., in 2004. She continues her work against student tracking and for education with the Institute for Popular Education and the Coalition of Afrikans Reclaiming Education, two groups promoting education as an important human rights issue.
The Sonja Haynes Stone Memorial Lecture is the center’s signature program. It features African-American women whose work, scholarship and service epitomize the spirit of Stone. Previous lecturers have included Angela Davis, U.S. Rep. Eva Clayton, Kathleen Cleaver, Sonia Sanchez, Atallah Shabazz and Alfre Woodard.