Women’s March Co-President Tamika Mallory shares her story

The social activist talked about her history in activism and her struggle as a widow


(Jón Asgeirsson/Daily Collegian)

By Kyle Lai

Social justice activist and Women’s March Co-President Tamika Mallory shared her life story in a speech at the Campus Center Auditorium on Thursday evening.

Mallory started by describing her experience as a young mother, suddenly widowed. Two years after giving birth to her son, Mallory’s partner was murdered.

“Within two years of [my son] being born,” she said, “his father was shot and killed and left in a ditch for two weeks before his body was discovered.”

Mallory felt “embarrassed” that not only was she a young 20-year-old mother, but she was now a mother in a family with an absent father.

Mallory had experienced social activism as a child. She had been a “movement kid;” her parents brought her to wherever there were rallies or political activities.

“It was against my will,” Mallory said. “I thought it was a curse at that time in my life, that all my friends had their skates over their arms or they were just doing a whole bunch of things while I was one of those kids who had to be with older folks who were dressed up in all their African garb, who were trucking me around town going to rallies.”

After she had been widowed, however, Mallory’s familiarity with social activism as a “movement kid” convinced her to act.

For Mallory, the eye-opening experience that led to her direct involvement in activism began when people began contacting her, sharing their own stories.

“A lot of young black women from the community, people I had been around in these rallies that I didn’t wanna go to—they were saying you know, ‘so-and-so also lost their father, so-and-so was also killed,” she said.

She heard similar stories from many of her family members and friends. For Mallory, too many people, particularly minorities, “were sharing this similar story about the loss of a young Black male, or young brown male.”

She began to question why so many young Black men—particularly from neighborhoods similar to the one she had grown up in—had died. To her, America had a lot of explaining to do. But no one seemed to be talking about the struggles facing the African American community—the loss of life related to drugs, gun violence or other kinds of violence, and a host of other issues.

Mallory’s personal experience with loss convinced her to personally reach out and start the conversation on her own. “A lot of people need personal experiences to help them come to get involved in this movement work,” she said.

Mallory identified some of the circumstances facing the young men of the Black community who were victims of injustice.

“My son’s father in particular—his name’s Jason—both of his parents were perpetual drug abusers, in-and-out of prison, and he had a lot of issues throughout his life—staying in school, keeping a steady job,” Mallory said. “It was very difficult for him because he never had a stable living situation.”

According to Mallory, this story was repeated many times: parents on drugs, living in poverty and in struggling communities, schools not doing well.

For her, the cause of these injustices and struggles were not from individual people, or the guns they used. It was about a community as a whole; one that needed to see what was happening to African-American youth and reevaluate what it promoted to people through mass media or social policies.

Mallory explained that movements to reform communities “cannot start and end in one small place. It has to include things like economic liberation, healthcare reform and it certainly must include women’s rights.” She added, “Our fight for gun control cannot just be about the gun, it must be about all the systems of oppression and violence and how it impacts every single community.” The U.S. cannot afford to turn a blind eye to “the corners, the blocks, the streets where young people of color live, where there is shooting happening every single day.”

Francesca Scarpatti, a freshman English major, found Mallory’s speech resonated a lot with her.

“I was able to relate with her a lot,” she said, “not super personally—like, my dad was an immigrant from Colombia and everyone is really happy to lump everybody from Central and South America together and call them Mexicans, and you know, the same prejudice that’s shown toward Mexican immigrants is shown toward other nationalities as well. So, my dad faced a lot of issues when he got to the states…even within the family, once he married my mom he faced a lot of racism from my grandparents,” Scarpatti said.

Stephnie Igharosa, a biology and women, gender and sexuality studies double major, believes the policy changes necessary to help fix communities can really only occur if people in power directly talk to the community itself.

“It’s very hard for you to try to change a situation just cerebrally,” Igharosa said.

“And not without actually speaking to people in the room who have faced [injustice], with experience…that’s a first step, reaching out to those communities…and you might see that some of the things you think are problematic aren’t actually problematic, and some of the things you haven’t actually thought of, that haven’t even crossed your mind, are,” she said.

Kyle Lai can be reached at [email protected]