Island University Administrator, Author, Scholar Shares Inspiring Stories of Women Activists

By Richard Guerrero | Published: March 06, 2020

Island University Administrator, Author, Scholar Shares Inspiring Stories of Women Activists

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – The diverse stories of five women social justice activists—four of whom are still living—were told in broad but dramatic strokes during “Stories of Social Justice,” presented by Dr. Amy Aldridge Sanford, Associate Provost for Academic Affairs and Professor of Communication at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. Aldridge Sanford based her presentation for the Women’s History Month event on a series of social justice profiles, three of whom she featured in her newly published book, “From Thought to Action: Developing a Social Justice Orientation.” The event, which was co-sponsored by the Office of Student Conduct & Advocacy and Project GRAD, was a packed house, including Islander students, faculty, staff, and community members.

For the presentation, Aldridge Sanford shared profiles of the late San Antonio labor activist Emma Tenayuca, transgender rights activist Janet Mock, AIDS caregiver Ruth Coker Burks, period poverty activist Nadya Okamoto, and Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai. Aldridge Sanford told the audience that she defined social justice as “The goal of a people who work to promote a society in which diversity and differences are celebrated and not ignored or belittled.”

Aldridge Sandford said attaining a higher social justice orientation involves three components:

  • embracing personal history;
  • sympathizing with other people’s stories, and;
  • desiring to end oppression of the marginalized. 

At the end of her analysis of the five activists, Aldridge Sanford posed a question to the audience: Are you ready to move from thought to action? If not, what’s stopping you?

“For so many people, when they hear the word ‘activist,’ they think that’s such a big thing they could never be,” said Aldridge Sanford. “I tell these stories so that they can see that these are all typical everyday people who had a turning point and decided to take action.”

Aldridge Sanford’s presentation prompted a robust discussion on a number of related topics. Tracey Anderson-Tellado, a doctoral student in the Island University’s Education Leadership program, said she became interested in racial justice and equity from a Christian viewpoint after noticing that the seminary’s curriculum where she studied failed to include the experiences of Black students.

“Most of the time you have an awakening and you develop an orientation, but things seem to be so huge that you don't know what you can do,” Anderson-Tellado said. “Dr. Sanford said if the environment is your bailiwick, instead of feeling overwhelmed, you can do a beach clean-up. Even though that is a Band-Aid, it is something concrete.”

Environmental Science major Megan Greige said she was inspired in high school by a teacher who was focused on revitalization efforts in downtown Corpus Christi. Like Anderson-Tellado, Greige said she enjoyed hearing Aldridge Sanford’s call to sharpen one’s focus by completing a single action item. 

“I'm the president of the Islander Green Team, so I’ve taken a special interest and role in sustainability on our campus. We’ve had several students take interest in that and they’re talking to the community about compost,’ Greige said. “We’d like to teach people how to reduce waste in general, and also provide opportunities to make our beaches cleaner.”

Women’s History Month at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi includes more than two dozen events throughout the month of March, including a voting rally, film screenings, and additional scholarly talks and activities, which are all free and open to the entire community. Learn more at https://tamuccwomenshistorymonth.wordpress.com/.