Bakersfield College invited activist and organizer Patrisse Khan-Cullors to help commemorate the beginning of Black History Month throughout the day at 10 a.m., 2 p.m., and 7 p.m. in the Indoor theatre on Feb. 6.
Cullors is a freedom fighter most known for co-founding the Black Lives Matter Movement and is a New York Times Best-selling author for her memoir, “When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir.”
At the events she highlighted the topics of police brutality, lack of integrity within the justice system, and recommended methods that would allow students to become community organizers within their own neighborhoods.
Cullors began explaining how Bakersfield’s location was significant to her because of the known term “prison row,” which is one of the main reasons for her career path. She thanked the audience for allowing her return to Bakersfield, to have been a pleasant experience. She then proceeded to address the country’s incarceration system.
“Who is the majority in jail and why?” Cullors asked the audience. She emphasized the increased incarceration rates over the years were from 700,000 to 2.3 million people. And that the majority of inmates imprisoned are either homeless, mentally ill, or drug dependent. Including that a vast majority of female inmates are in jail for non-violent crimes.
She transitioned to speaking about the media’s portrayal and characterization of certain communities and how it influences social justice.
“The media was saying that these groups of people were super predators that needed to be locked up and taken away from the community,” said Cullors “And in the same breath I was living in those neighborhoods those community members were my brothers who kept me safe.” Cullors described the environment in which she grew up and the over policing she experienced within her neighborhood that motivated her to speak out and fight for change. She continued to explain that the amounts of weapons and armed people she witnessed growing up were not from people in her community but from the police.
“I’m not here to entertain I’m here to organize you,” said Cullors as she concluded her presentation. “For you to sort of have a light bulb moment an aha moment if you aren’t already organizing or trying to change the material condition for the people most marginalized in Bakersfield,” said Cullors “I hope today drives you that way.”
The 10 a.m. talk mainly focused on incarceration and social justice, the 2 p.m. spoke about the Black Lives Matter Movement as well as police brutality, and the 7 p.m. was much longer and went further in depth on both topics.
The 10 a.m. event ended with a few brief questions from the audience. One audience member asked, “What do you think about the private prison systems?
Cullors responded and said, “They are whack, detention centers are prisons, it is just another cage. They try to give the same thing a new name, and we should be challenging them.”