Alishea Sutton

Strategic – Intentional – Visionary

Black + Radical

I began my second graduate program September 2017. I don’t consider myself a young whippersnapper at 38 years of lived experience. I was a person looking for change from my normal routine and being frustrated from my former job. In Liberation Station, I discussed not wanting to conform based on the thoughts of others. Conforming is probably one of my biggest pet peeves. You won’t find a friend in me if you want me to fit in a box. It just won’t happen. You will be disappointed. But I digress. Let’s get back to the topic at hand.

The plan was to start school, learn about social work, graduate, and get a job. Life has a funny way of playing itself out. In the midst of a group project, my colleague (now friend) and I started Black Radical Scholars. It started because we were discussing the antics we encountered on the campus of the PWI (predominately white institution) we both attend. Our tagline is two MSW (Master of Social Work) candidates resisting the BS one day at a time. I loved the idea and I felt like I could really make change, but what is it that makes one “radical”?


a person who advocates thorough or complete political or social reform; a member of a political party or part of a party pursuing such aims.


When I think of radicals of the past (and present), I think of Huey Newton, Malcolm X, Angela Davis, Marcus Garvey, and Shirley Chisholm. Individuals whose thoughts and visions were unlike the status quo, but wanted change in society for Black/African Americans. In the Medium article, What Does It Mean to Be Radical?, it states that “radicals attempt to understand the root of the social problem – to cultivate an approach that goes beyond what can be easily observed on the surface.”

This assessment of what it means to be radical aligns with how I feel about my city. I see there needs to be change and I know I can’t help change the dynamics of the city alone. I see families torn, a community in need of healing, and people consumed with busyness. I see a lack of unity within the Black community – although it’s recognized, the change and healing is yet to be seen.

I have radical thoughts of what the city could do, but we must be on one accord. It’s been my experience and observation that we, as a community, have accepted the status quo and depend on social service agencies to care for members of our community. We do things for the image of looking the part by volunteering and showing folks how connected to the community we are. That’s fine, but there’s a fine line of being exploitative of marginalized communities – I mean, can’t we just do without letting everyone know our good deeds? Maybe, maybe not. It’s judgy, but that’s my observation, my opinion.

“radicals attempt to understand the root of the social problem – to cultivate an approach that goes beyond what can be easily observed on the surface.”

What Does It Mean to be radical?
Paris marx, Sept. 6, 2018

I’m tired being a bystander of the Black community succumbing to the mental implications of slavery – once we “make it” we don’t look back to help others. I’m tired of waiting on a savior to help our community when we are fully capable or organizing and improving the community through education and economic empowerment.

I’m sure this message won’t be a popular one, but I’ve never been popular by conventional standards. I’m ready to get stuff done. I’ll be radical with my radical thoughts until the day I die. As a Black woman, no one wants to listen, but I’ll continue to raise my voice, to challenge myself and others to be proactive for change. It’s almost 2020 and we still let fear and comfort guide our thoughts and actions. Well, no more! We’ve become too complacent in times where we are still seen as other, as second-class citizens. It’s time we rise up and unify! It’s time we advocate with our time, talents, and treasures. It’s time to get radical.

The question is: Are you radical?

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