‘We Are All the Same’: Feminista Jones Preaches Community In Racial Justice

Named one of the Top 100 Black Social Influencers by The Root in 2014, Feminsta Jones spoke to Andover students on the importance of teaching and learning Black history. Jones is an activist and author who has published multiple books on feminism and the Black identity. Jones served as the Black Arts Month keynote speaker with her talk entitled “Looking Towards a Black Future Informed By Our Rich History.”

Jones spoke about her time at the University of Pennsylvania as a double-major in African American Studies and Sociology. In college, Jones was able to learn about aspects of her own history that she never knew existed. Learning about African American Studies from a Black teacher was a pivotal moment in her life.

“There’s a privilege to being able to go to school and see someone standing at the front that looks like you. It’s not until you get the teacher who looks like you, who’s teaching a class on African American studies. That changed my life. I said, ‘What is this? I did not know any of this!’ It was the first time that I felt like I was learning something about where I came from that was not revolving around being subservient to someone else or less than someone else,” said Jones.

In her African American Studies class, Jones realized the importance of educating others on African American history. She believes that it is crucial to uncover aspects of Black history that go untaught; for Jones, this means going beyond what is taught in history books.

“I read “The Education of The Negro Prior To 1861” and I understood what Carter G. Woodson was talking about. The pain that I felt that it took me becoming an adult to first learn these things was traumatizing to me. And all I could think to myself was, ‘What about everyone else? They’re not studying themselves. What will they become?’ And that’s where we get stuck in a lot of things,” said Jones.

In her talk, Jones highlighted one of the largest problems she has noticed in her time as an influencer and an activist; people often link success and superiority to whiteness. Jones explained that this mindset can weaken cultural connections. She added, however, that by learning about the history of our cultures, we can strengthen our own cultural affinity.

“What our ancestors and elders have been trying to do is make things better for each generation. But we equate better with proximity to whiteness and we have to stop doing that… Sometimes the consequence is a separation from cultural traditions and affinity… But cultural memory is strong. Even when you are displaced or removed or separated from each other, that memory is there,” said Jones.

Attendee Allie Encarnacion ’24 enjoyed Jones’ personal anecdotes and humor throughout the talk. At the same time, Encarnacion noted Jones’ seriousness and impactfulness throughout her interactions with the audience.

“Overall, I really enjoyed the Feminsta Jones talk. She had several wonderful quotes and managed to be real, funny, and professional at the same time. It was a super refreshing time and didn’t focus so much of the solution on the children, and more on advocating for education when people are most impressionable. I hope that more people become interested in her work,” said Encarnacion.

Another attendee at the talk, Nahila Hutchinson ’24, felt seen and understood by many of the experiences and stories Jones spoke about. As someone who had been previously interested in social justice, she felt inspired and encouraged by Jones’ work.

“Jones’ conference was incredibly inspiring. She briefly mentioned her friend from Newark, New Jersey who also happens to be Jamaican, and I thought to myself, ‘Wait, that’s exactly me!’ Little things she said like that, they made me feel seen… After listening to her speak, I’ve realized I don’t need to push my passions aside to be successful… Social justice can be as large of a focus in my life as I want it to be,” said Hutchinson.

Jones concluded her talk by urging African people and people from other cultures to come together as a community, even when others try to tear them apart. She urged the audience to remember that regardless of where they live, they all come from the same place.

“We are all the same people. Understand that the boat just went to different places. We originated in the same spots. We are all the same,” said Jones.