Reflections from the Belle H Bennett House: Actively Dreaming New Realities Into Existence

Image credit: “Keep Calm and Imagine” by Larissa Marinho

By Judith R. Clerjeune

In the introduction of his book, Freedom Dreams, Robin G Kelly Writes, “Trying to envision ‘somewhere in advance of nowhere’, as poet Jayne Cortez puts it, it is an extremely difficult task, yet it is a matter of great urgency. Without new visions we don’t know what to build, only what to knock down. We not only end up confused, rudderless and cynical, but we forget that making a revolution is not a series of clever maneuvers and tactics but a process that can and must transform us” (Kelly, xii).

I am a young socially conscious womyn who is interested in working to increase justice. I am starting to identify myself as an activist. I am a Belle H. Bennett Fellow at Scarritt Bennett. Over the past few months, news of the unrest in Ferguson, Proposition 1 , and the Unaccompanied Children have been taking much of my head space. These are only three of the many issues that reveal the ways in which for many people in Nashville, in the United States and around the globe, the ability to access freedom is still not a reality.

Thinking through these issues with my coworkers and housemates has often left me feeling very hopeless and heavy. But it is during these moments of darkness that I am most reminded of the need to heed to Robin Kelly’s encouragement. As activists, we have to do more than fight injustice. It is necessary for us to daily envision and dream into existence new just and equitable communities, systems and institutions. We must get in the habit of daily creating the world that we envision!

Earlier this week, my friend took me to the hospital and stayed with me as I got my finger checked out. On Thursdays, we eat together. Daily, we slowly and tediously work on creating a loving and safe community for the five of us. It is hard. But it’s worth it. The Belle H. Bennett fellowship is one of the ways that Scarritt Bennett is envisioning a new community into existence. In our own small way, we are partnering with various non-profits in Nashville to make our communities more just and equitable. We are learning to live in community and do life together.

The world will not change in one day. Injustices will not be rectified in one day. However, as we continue to fight for justice, we must also work to daily birth into reality new visions for justice and freedom.

“We Who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest until it Comes” – Ella Baker


Judith Clerjeune 

Judith Clerjeune was born in Haiti and migrated to the United States 6 years ago. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in History and Africana Studies from Williams College. She is currently a Belle H. Bennett Fellow at the Scarritt-Bennett center and works as an advocacy intern at the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee rights Coalition (TIRRC). Judith is interested in advocacy and policy work on issues of immigration, specifically the ways in which immigration policies impacts the lives of severely marginalized groups, such as lower-income immigrant women.