Continuing King’s Legacy: Moriah Russo ’13

January 16, 2012

Moriah Russo ’14

Moriah Russo ’13 is passionate about creating a better world and learning more about multifaceted systems of oppression. That passion fuels her energy for and involvement in feminist causes. Double majoring in studio art and art history and minoring in women’s studies, Russo is a leader in Rollins’ feminist student organization Voices for Women. She participated in last semester’s feminist forum that included conversations with Gloria Steinhem and the Guerilla Girls. Off campus, she volunteers with local co-operative efforts and batter women’s shelters and is active in the international Occupy movement.

The Declaration of Independence guarantees Americans the “unalienable rights” of “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” What does that mean to you?

I define liberty as freedom to exercise identity to the fullest extent and to contribute to the global human community. It is loving with intent and claiming the human right to intellectual, social, and emotional fulfillment—as well as fighting for that right for traditionally disempowered groups.

What do you perceive to be the most pressing issue that your generation should address?

I cannot state the most pressing issue of my generation’s reality—there are too many injustices that remain unsolved. The natural environment and health of our planet is in peril. Human beings are harassed and discriminated against based on matters of their age, race, gender, sexual identity, sexual orientation, appearance, economic status, physical ability, and more. People all over the world are starving, dehydrated, sick, over-worked, and unhappy. Intersecting oppressive systems have my global peers by the throat, and the best each of us can do is work towards changing the injustices that set fire to our individual passions.

How are you helping to make justice a reality?

At this point in my life, I feel most strongly about social injustice as perpetrated by patriarchy, which is why I’m working toward building a community open to be shared and fostered by all. Out of that desire comes my urge to work within the feminist community on campus and among the greater community of disillusioned Americans and global citizens of the Occupy movement. That desire also drives my urge to be kind, charitable, and inclusionary in all of my daily activities and to understand and humble myself before my own personal privilege.

During his “I Have a Dream Speech,” King laid out his dream. What is your dream?

I also have a dream that “one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all [humans] are created equal.’” I have a dream that all humans will one day be judged purely on the content of their character, regardless of any of the traditional target statuses of oppression. Part of that dream entails my generation rising up and claiming our rights as human beings.

How does this dream drive what you’re studying?

I study women’s, LGBT, and racial issues in order to understand the force of oppression that others similar to myself and I stand against. In order to reconstruct a just world, I have to know what must be changed. In this way, I am not only fueled by the anger of injustice, but also by the hope for justice.

How does your vision influence your involvement?

I busy myself with social and political awareness and activism in order to feel like I am making a difference, that my existence is worthwhile, and that I have an outlet for the anger I feel against injustice.

The more I am involved in efforts on- and off-campus against inequality, the more I become aware of the multifaceted systems of oppression that subjugate the human race. In this way, my dream for the future is perpetually expanding as I realize more and more that must be changed in order to achieve this goal.

What advice do you have for students who are interested in becoming involved but aren’t sure where to start?

Your help is always needed! Wherever you chose to dedicate your energy, you will be helping the human cause if the effort is virtuous. Building and maintaining relationships with activists, professionals, peers, and professors is the surest advice I can give.

On campus, I was privileged enough to benefit from the care of many people in the Rollins community who were interested in assisting me in my advocacy goals. Academic and career advisors are a great place to begin. They can help you figure out your interests and the fields you’d be most happy working in. I also recommend dropping by the Office of Multicultural Affairs and chatting with one of the many friendly employees of that department. I have had many outstanding professors who have helped guide me toward areas where I can do the most good. A professor changed my life by recommending I join Voices for Women during a casual conversation. Yet another professor recently loaned me a copy of Please Understand Me: Character & Temperament Types by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates, with the intention of helping me to understand my strengths and how I can lend them to my advocacy goals. If you are active in your studies, your classes, and your personal interests, your teachers and advisors will be able to witness your growth and accomplishments and synthesize their observations into truly personalized counsel.

Is there anything else you think people should know about the issues you’re passionate about or the work you’re doing?

Please remain aware, informed, and passionate about your community and your world, and respect the legacy of our great heroes and heroines that have brought us this far.

Honoring the life and legacy of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr, MLK Celebration runs January 16-21. Join us in paying homage to King’s work toward equality and economic justice for all people.

By Laura J. Cole

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