Olivia Marbury: Your Friendly Neighborhood Activist

As Olivia Marbury’s audio connects, The future Howard student waves to me with a smile. Marbury recently wrote an article titled “Happy MLK Day: Would He Be Proud?”. When I read this stellar article, I invited Marbury to be interviewed for the opinions she has and the thoughts she had on the progress of Black people.

Quote 1: “In school, we only learn things that want to be taught: peaceful protest, everything’s equal, and the bad is in the past”.  

What other things can be taught in school?

Probably financial literacy. I think there is a gap in equity that Black people fall through the cracks a lot. There could be a lot more information for people of color because a lot of people are ahead of us. We are behind 400 years. They have generational wealth. Financial literacy is all about having connections, and it is hard to have connections when you are already behind. Probably more Black history because Black history is our history. We built this country.

Quote 2: “How do we call ourselves the land of the free but be a militaristic country”.

Can you expand on that?

The United States is a police country. We always say that we are the best country in the world when we are not. We call ourselves the land of the free, but we do everything to contradict that. From policing problems to putting other people down and we have issues with immigration. It is just so many issues. How are we the land of the free when we have so many issues? I feel like America itself was built on hypocrisy. Like “all men are created equal” but slavery existed. Obviously, nothing is going to be perfect but just the pride and the patriotism I think that is what kind of made me think of that sentence. Everything is contradicting. Everything. I am not sitting here saying how I hate America, it is just like the pride people have here, I will never feel that because I can see all these issues that I just cannot turn a blind eye to.

Quote 3: “Too many times I’ve heard the statements: ‘it’s not like slavery still exists’ or you guys aren’t legally unequal or segregated’ used to justify the system while undermining the Black experience”.

Define the Black experience.

The Black experience is beautiful, but it is hard. The Black experience is walking into a room and being stared at and judged before you even speak a word. The Black experience is being expected to be a certain way, to be mean. I have been told that so many times. You walk into a room and they are scared you will take their bag. But on the flip side, the Black community is beautiful and its community. The biggest word is a community there.

How do microaggressions affect Black girl teens anywhere?

It’s people touching your hair. It is just like who invited you. There are so many. It is with college that white people do not have to think of. White people probably do not even know what a PWI is. Like what happens if I do go to a PWI? If I do not go to an HBCU?

Quote 4: “As a Black woman I feel as though I’m remembered in the news, by incidents, and simply in everyday life that this country wasn’t built with the intention of me succeeding.”

How does systemic racism affect you personally?

The colleges are one. But then the whole idea that I have to work ten times harder just to level up to people doing the bare minimum. There is a statistic that even if I get my bachelor’s degree, I am not going to making more money than a white woman with her GED. If I and another woman have the same credentials, I am likely not going to get the job. It has happened before. The education part bothers me. It is systemic. Black women are the most educated group in this country, but we are the most underpaid and that is an issue. 

How do you push through racism and sexism?

Laughing it off with my Black girl friends helps a lot and this circles back to the community thing. We call ourselves the “5 percenters” because we are the 5 percent at our school. And then keeping your head up high because at the end of the day you cannot control how people look at you. You cannot control other people’s perception of you. I think that’s kind of the mindset I keep to push through. I use my voice that I have. Speaking up and being assertive helps too.

Can Gen Z be the change of systemic racism? Can we affect it?

I used to think so. How many people voted for Trump? I think we often forget that the older generations teach their kids, and their kids teach their kids. Racism is traveling the way it always traveled, through generations. We have access to so much information, but we also have so much access to misinformation and the natural biases in there.

Olivia is making a change to her community by giving a voice to the unheard. How can you change your community for the better?

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