Monique Gillum

With the ability to motivate and mobilize people to action, Monique Gillum is recognized as an emerging leader. At the age of 23, Gillum was hired by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Georgia, to serve as a Site Director in July 2009. As Director of the Murphy, Felton, Tindall Unit, Gillum lead a program that sought to help identify solutions to the challenges facing our youth. Gillum currently serves as Senior Advocate for the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, AL. She works firsthand on juvenile justice and education reform projects in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida.
A graduate of College Leadership Florida, Gillum was also very active in Florida A&M University’s (FAMU) Student Government Association (SGA), serving as a student senator her freshman and sophomore years, and as Student Body Vice President her junior year. Then, her peers elected her as SGA President, serving from 2007-08. While in office, she served as the first female student member of the FAMU Board of Trustees and was appointed to the following boards and committees: FAMU Provost Search Committee, Florida Student Association and the Leon County Civic Center Authority Board.
Gillum is a member of the Young People for the American Way Foundation’s inaugural fellowship class of 2005 and a graduate of Front Line Leaders Academy. Gillum is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated, the FAMU National Alumni Association, the Coalition for Justice, and a member of Beulahland Bible Church.

Details

Location: Tallahassee, FL, United States

    Issues Areas:
  • Education Justice

Campus: Florida A&M University - Tallahassee, FL

Fellowship Class Year: 2005

    Fellow Groups:
  • Front Line Leaders Academy

Blueprint: Ensuring Higher Education Access in Florida

YP4 Fellows at Florida A&M University and Florida State University partnered to work on issues of higher education in the state of Florida for their Blueprints for Social Justice. At the time the state was facing the implementation of a "Block Tuition" bill, which would implement significant budget cuts and could force graduation from state universities to occur within four years, thereby preventing students from pursuing work opportunities or internships during their studies. The Florida YP4 Fellows saw this as a crippling blow to public higher education in their state and mobilized to prevent the passage of this legislation. They kicked off their action plan with a Young People For training March 18-19th, 2005 to educate their community about and heighten awareness surrounding this proposed bill. Through trainings on advocacy techniques, Public education issues, the supreme court, and messaging tactics, the YP4 Fellows attempted to show how the Florida legislature has unfairly targeted higher education with disproportionate budget cuts and how these cuts may limit the accessibility of higher education in the state. The students coordinated with local media and partnered with progressive organizations on campus to garner support for their cause and to mobilize students to be a part of their efforts.

Featured Fellow Spotlight

With the ability to motivate and mobilize people to action, Monique Gillum is recognized as an emerging leader. At the age of 23, Gillum was hired by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Georgia, to serve as a Site Director in July 2009. As Director of the Murphy, Felton, Tindall Unit, Gillum lead a program that sought to help identify solutions to the challenges facing our youth. Gillum currently serves as Senior Advocate for the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, AL. She works firsthand on juvenile justice and education reform projects in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida.

A graduate of College Leadership Florida, Gillum was also very active in Florida A&M University’s (FAMU) Student Government Association (SGA), serving as a student senator her freshman and sophomore years, and as Student Body Vice President her junior year. Then, her peers elected her as SGA President, serving from 2007-08. While in office, she served as the first female student member of the FAMU Board of Trustees and was appointed to the following boards and committees: FAMU Provost Search Committee, Florida Student Association and the Leon County Civic Center Authority Board.

Gillum is a member of the Young People for the American Way Foundation’s inaugural fellowship class of 2005 and a graduate of Front Line Leaders Academy. Gillum is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated, the FAMU National Alumni Association, the Coalition for Justice, and a member of Beulahland Bible Church.

YP4: What do you stand for?

Monique: Justice and Equality.

YP4: How did you become involved with YP4?

Monique: I joined the first class of Young People For Fellows when I was 19 years old, in 2005. The YP4 Fellowship was extremely helpful both in my life as a leader on campus, while I was running for positions on campus, and also as an organizer. YP4 was a solid foundation for me.

YP4: What is your Blueprint for Social Justice?

Monique: We started with a voter registration drive, and ended up starting the Coalition for Justice. Leaders from Florida State and Florida A&M University came together to create this organization, and that ultimately resulted in this sit-in. What started as a voter registration project and ended up being something totally different.

YP4: What has been your greatest achievement so far?

Monique: Fighting for the incarcerated youth, really, and being a part of an organization that fights for young people on a daily basis. I’ve also been working on a lawsuit that that prevents youth from being held in solitary confinement while they’re in prison in Mississippi.

YP4: What motivates and inspires you?

Monique: I’m inspired by young people, and this idea that we can use the youth to truly make a difference. It’s really about empowering young people, and the idea that I can do something to help foster the same type of organizational skills and leadership that inspired me when I was 19.

YP4: What is a main goal that you want to accomplish?

Monique: In terms of a career path, I want to work with policy concerning criminal justice reform and education reform. I want to ensure that even when kids get in trouble, there’s a second chance for them.

YP4: What is your vision for the world?

Monique: I envision a world where we actually live by the values of justice and liberty for all, where that really rings true.

YP4: How do you feel you fit in to the Progressive Movement?

Monique: I feel that I work every day to help. I do it through my work with the Southern Poverty Law Center, and through introducing people to other ways of thinking, that aren’t necessary Democratic or Republican, but that simply allow folks to have respect for whatever you believe in. That pushes the Progressive Movement forward.

YP4: What is a struggle that you’ve faced or are facing in your work?

Monique: Right now I’m working on the overuse of school suspensions. We’re trying to keep kids in school and out of the streets, and helping to build school systems that focus on restorative justice, rather than on just kicking kids out of school.

YP4: What advice do you have for others dealing with those struggles?

Monique: I believe that if you stick to something long enough, you’ll see progress. It’s sometimes slow, but you have to keep fighting and working towards your desired end.

YP4: How can other Fellows get involved or find more information about the work you’re doing?

Monique: They can check out the Southern Poverty Law Center, or SPLC. The website is splcenter.org. I also happen to be working with a group called the Dream Defenders, where I’m working with other YP4 fellows from the 2005 class, Phillip Agnew and Gabriel Pendes. We’re trying to push legislation around the school to prison pipeline. We’re currently on the 31th day of another sit in. People For the American Way has been really helpful in our efforts here.

YP4: What advice would you give to the 2013-2014 incoming class of Fellows?

Monique: There’s a quote I really like by Martin Luther King Jr. It says, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” So my advice would be to always use your voice to help people. Always stand up for what you believe in, and use your voice to help others.

YP4: If every time you entered a room your theme song played, what would it be and why?

Monique: I think mine will probably be “Change Is Going To Come” by Sam Cook.

YP4: Is there anything else that you want to say?

Monique: Nothing more than that I believe in the mission of Young People For and People For the American Way Foundation. My experience with the fellowship, at age 19, has shaped the person I am today. Folks should take advantage of what they’re learning there as a fellow, and of the network, which is pretty strong. I’m 27 now, and YP4 is still helping us out! They showed us support in 2006, and are still helping us now in Florida.