Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal
Injustices captured on video and shared via social media may be influencing an increasing number of people to pay more attention to social justice issues. It may also be a factor in the revival of campus activism.
A new group of political and social activists called Popular Resistance has come to the University of Mississippi campus. They believe in “utilizing nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience as a primary tactic” to “uphold the rights of all living beings and the planet,” according to the Popular Resistance website at PopularResistance.org.
Jazlyn “Jaz” Brisack helped bring PR to UM. Brisack, a sophomore UM student majoring in public policy and minoring in journalism, was born in Texas in 1997 and has lived in eight states.
“My mom called it ‘globe-schooling’,” said Brisack, who was homeschooled. “She thought it helped to learn about states and their cultures when living in those states.”
Brisack said she noticed the necessity for PR last year when the Trans-Pacific Partnership was drafted. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which describes itself as the leading nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world, the TPP is a “secretive, multinational trade agreement that threatens to extend restrictive intellectual property laws across the globe and rewrite international rules on its enforcement.”
Brisack read the TPP last winter between the wintersession 2015 and spring 2016 semester and contacted PR to help spread awareness about the multinational trade agreement.
“I believe in the power of the people over corporations,” she said.
Brisack is a strong believer that “strength in numbers” is necessary regarding political change, and she believes she is a prime candidate for spearheading PR’s incorporation on the UM campus.
“I think that students are interested in political activism,” said Brisack, “especially when it centers around causes that affect them directly.”
She said political activism could end wars, stop racism and eradicate poverty. She believes these are all worthy objectives to strive for.
PR Vice President Levi Bevis, a UM sophomore public policy leadership major, has known Brisack since the beginning of her freshman year.
“She is an incredible leader, both on and off campus,” he said “She is hard-working, resolute, and she does not let anything stand in the way of her accomplishing her goals.”
In her 19 years, Brisack has participated in numerous social demonstrations and protests she organized. She helped organize the protest rally in front of the Nissan automotive plant in Canton, Mississippi earlier this year and also organized an anti-TPP rally mid-spring 2015 semester in UM Grove.
Following PR’s philosophy, Brisack willingly partakes in civil disobedience in order to better obtain political and social change. Her first act of civil disobedience occurred during the Canton worker rally earlier this year.
“I crossed the line [between public land and private property] with three other girls,” she said with a smile. “We walked together shouting, ‘Hell no! We won’t go!’ It was fun.”
Brisack doesn’t have many concerns about civil disobedience as long as it’s non-violent, mainly because she considers it a privilege to be arrested for that reason.
“I was actually hoping it would happen,” Brisack said, recalling passing out leaflets at Nissan. “It would’ve been really bad publicity for Nissan.”
Brisack said the decision to commit civil disobedience is up to the individual, and she believes the decision should be respected. She plans to organize and participate in similar activities after UM’s branch of PR becomes more established.
“I spend 20 hours on each event,” she said, explaining the event organization process. Each event requires that guest speakers are booked, fliers are posted on every available bulletin board in every academic building and pamphlets are distributed. She designs sign-in sheets, coordinates music, emails appropriate participants, contacts the press, cooks desserts, and adds other small touches.
“I usually get blisters [on my feet] putting the fliers on all the bulletin boards,” Brisack commented wearily. “It’s very time-consuming, but worth it.”
Brisack said she plans to advocate for better working conditions for UM’s custodial and landscaping workers in the form of proposing a $15 minimum wage and better working conditions, such as better work hours and benefits.
She is also working with Croft Arabic scholars for Palestinian solidarity. “I hope to get ideas [for activities] during the interest meeting,” she said.
Brisack has formed a support group from Croft’s Arabic scholars and is happy that the UM’s PR branch supports her as well. Together, they have plans to screen a documentary on the issue, disperse educational materials, such as pamphlets and leaflets, and ask for guest speakers who are experts in the field to discuss the matter. All of these things will be discussed during PR’s next meeting.
The Popular Resistance website lists 15 core issues that the organization’s leaders believe are in crisis in the United States. They include corporatism, wars and militarism, human rights, worker rights and jobs, government, elections, criminal justice and prisons, healthcare, education, housing, environment, finance and the economy, media, food and water, and transportation.
Bevis and Brisack said PR’s presence on the UM’s campus is new. They finished officially registering in May. But they are optimistic about advancing the organization’s presence.
“I am excited to work with [Jazlyn Brisack] to build the Popular Resistance organization on our campus,” said Bevis.
Both look forward to getting more students involved in current political issues.
To learn more about Popular Resistance, visit the website popularresistance.org.