Youth interview renowned civil rights journalist Shaun King

 Journalist and activist Shaun King was the keynote speaker at Pillsbury United Communities’ (PUC) annual fundraiser on Oct. 23. PUC owns  North News. Photo by David Pierini

Journalist and activist Shaun King was the keynote speaker at Pillsbury United Communities’ (PUC) annual fundraiser on Oct. 23. PUC owns North News. Photo by David Pierini

Shaun King was the keynote speaker at Pillsbury United Communities' annual fundraiser. PUC owns North News and is dedicated to supporting grassroots community media efforts in Minneapolis.

Daija Triplett | Intern

In his work as an activist and journalist, Shaun King uses his voice and his platform, especially social media, to shine a light on racism and injustice. He rallies and unites people of different backgrounds, and tells the story of today’s civil rights struggles with depth and compassion. He shares information about  what is going on in the African American community. He advocates for black people all over the world.

I had the pleasure of introducing King at Pillsbury United Communities’ annual fundraiser on Oct. 23 at the Machine Shop in Northeast Minneapolis. After his speech, a couple of North News interns and I had an opportunity to speak with King and ask him questions about social justice, mass incarceration, and the Black Lives Matter movement. It was a very interesting conversation particularly because most of us follow him on social media. Being able to speak to him in person was a great honor.

 High school journalists from the  North News  and KRSM youth programs interviewed King after his speech.  Photo by Cirien Saadeh

High school journalists from the North News and KRSM youth programs interviewed King after his speech. Photo by Cirien Saadeh

In his speech at the PUC event, King taught a history lesson, touching on many unknown aspects of US history. He also spoke about the problems in the United States, and what we need to do as citizens to fix them. He talked to us about how our country is in a “dip” — a deep hole of racial inequalities and political problems. He talked about steps that we as a society need to take to fix the problem. He spoke in a conducting way as if he wanted us to start immediately. Honestly, I was ready to begin. Listening to him speak about the “dip” brought a lot of things to my attention about the world that we live in. Even though it was not a new fact to me, King spoke about the United States having the highest incarceration rate in the country. 

On the topic of  mass incarceration, he said:  “It took me a while to understand that the justice system in America is not broken. It’s actually fully functioning exactly how it is intended to function. It’s actually a well oiled machine. It’s not broken; it’s an amazing system. It was built and designed to undercut and undermine a very particular group of people, and it has done that with great success.” That was something I had never heard before, but once I heard it I knew exactly what he meant. The justice system has successfully weakened people of color by separating black men from  their families, stripping them of their rights, and taking them away from society. Black people make up the largest percentage of the prison population.

Ashley Powell, another North News student journalist, asked King:  “What do you think journalists responsibility is to social justice?” King said: “First and foremost it’s to document the world you know as it actually is, and particularly, when it comes to social justice, to tell stories from the perspective of people who are actually experiencing injustice. ...We don’t get any real justice and sometimes the best we get is not good enough, but the best we get is making sure people's stories are at least told honestly, and that's what you all get to do.” 

Speaking with an activist and journalist like Shaun King who is very educated and has great influence made me not only want to continue my journey to becoming a powerful journalist but also to use my voice as an advocate for the injustices and inequalities throughout my society. I want to be able to have the respect from my own community and from communities across the nation. I don’t want people to look at me as if I'm just another reporter or writer. I want to earn that respect from my community and to keep it. 


Kenzie O'Keefe