Radical Imagination and the Stillness of Remembrance

Radical Imagination and the Stillness of Remembrance

During Marlborough’s Black History Month ASM, Dr. Jasmine D. Hill inspires the community to create an inclusive, just, and equitable world.

Radical Imagination and the Stillness of Remembrance

“For all of us, whether we identify as Black or not, we have an opportunity to sit in the stillness of remembrance: remembrance of the folks who came before us who paved the way through their own struggle and sacrifice for us to be able to do the things that we have the privilege of doing today.” This poignant message was shared by Dr. Jasmine D. Hill during her visit to Marlborough for our Black History Month All-School Meeting. In her meaningful address, titled “Black History Now: Past, Present, and Future in the Struggle for Justice,” Dr. Hill delved into the significance of Black History Month, celebrated achievements, and the ongoing fight for equality and inclusion.

Dr. Hill is a distinguished professor of public policy and sociology at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She is a sociologist specializing in racial inequality and social mobility for Black Americans. She holds a BA in Communication Studies from UCLA and a Masters and PhD in Sociology from Stanford University; her expertise illuminated the complexities of Black History and its contemporary significance. 

Throughout her talk, Dr. Hill skillfully weaved historical context with contemporary relevance, discussing the origins of Black History Month and its evolution into a platform for celebrating the accomplishments of Black Americans. Dr. Hill shared, “Black History Month began as a reeducation campaign initially meant for Black communities. It has evolved to meet the goal of challenging the oppression of Black people.” 

While uplifting the accomplishments of prominent historical and contemporary Black figures, Dr. Hill also encouraged the Marlborough community to consider the hidden figures who paved the way for others to be successful, and who are often unknown or far less widely credited with their achievements. To emphasize her point, Dr. Hill taught the community about Pauli Murray. Murray was a non-binary lawyer, civil rights activist, author, and more. Born in 1910, Murray fought for inclusion and access. In a video Dr. Hill showed the audience, an educator shared: “Pauli Murray was a trailblazer. Not only did Pauli refuse to give up their seat on a bus 15 years before the famous Montgomery bus boycott, Pauli was also involved in nonviolent protests against segregated lunch counters 17 years before the Greensboro sit-ins. Ten years before Thurgood Marshall would win the case that would effectively outlaw segregation, Pauli Murray wrote a paper outlining the approach that should be taken and Thurgood Marshall used that paper in preparation for this case. Pauli’s footprints are everywhere.” By sharing stories like Murray’s, Dr. Hill emphasized the importance of remembrance and gratitude for those who paved the way for progress.

Moreover, Dr. Hill challenged the notion of being “the first” and underscored the responsibility that accompanies such achievements. She encouraged, “If you get the opportunity to be the first, please don't be the last. Do not close the door behind you.” Dr. Hill emphasized the need to create pathways for others, echoing the sentiment of Toni Morrison that true success lies in empowering others. 

Beyond historical reflections, Dr. Hill urged students to confront present-day challenges and actively contribute to creating a more just and inclusive society. Her practical steps for action, including educating oneself, fostering empathy, advocating for inclusion, and building coalitions, served as a roadmap for positive change. Emphasizing the importance of collaboration and solidarity, she called upon individuals to stand up against injustice and support marginalized communities. She also spoke about the notion of a “radical imagination” used to envision the future we all want to see. Dr. Hill said, “We can envision a world where all people can be safe, free, and have equal access to what they need to thrive.”

With everyone’s radical imagination activated, Dr. Hill circled back to the notion of remembering those who came before us, on whose shoulders each of us stands. Her message underscored the importance of gratitude and collective action in the ongoing work of justice and equality.  In closing, she urged the community to continue the fight for justice, ensuring that there is room for future generations to thrive. She concluded, “ I'm convinced that if we are going to get anywhere, we have to believe that we have the influence and power to take action now. That the radical imagination of the world that we want to create, it’s possible, it’s within our reach, and you all are going to be the folks that bring it forward. Thank you all in advance for the work that you are going to do to make our world better.”

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In the image that accompanies this article, Dr. Hill stands in the middle of the stage in Caswell Hall. She holds the microphone in her left hand and gestures with her right as she makes a point. Behind her on the projection screen, a phrase reads: “You may be the first... Don’t be the last”.

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