Angel Jones, Street Scholar

Angel Jones, author of Street Scholar, reads an excerpt from her book. It discusses the importance of access to educating materials not just in higher education but for anyone. Street Scholar also discusses Jones' use of social media to educate on racial injustice.

Academics are usually told to write and talk in a more formal tone for anything they do, but that is exactly what SIUE visiting associate professor Angel Jones is trying to challenge with her book “Street Scholar.” 

“Street Scholar,” according to Jones’s website, is “an unapologetic call-to-action that challenges the Academy to thoughtfully and intentionally engage in public scholarship.” Jones delved more into what it means to be a public scholar and a street scholar in her book reading held on Nov. 29 in the Morris University Center. 

According to Jones, there is a key difference between a public scholar and a street scholar. In her book, Jones wrote, ”In my opinion, a public scholar is exactly what it sounds like - a scholar who has chosen to share their work with the public. And while a street scholar does that, it doesn’t just start and stop there. A street scholar is someone whose mission, movements, and motivation are rooted in a community.”’

Jones talked about her journey through academia as a woman of color as well as her presence on social media. She said accessibility is one of the most important things for academia.

“I think about accessibility in a couple ways,” Jones said. “One, making our actual work accessible to folks, like physically being able to read articles or learn from us. But then also the language I use is very effective. The way I talk to my mama, it’s how I’m talking to y'all, it’s how I talk to my students, it’s how I write. I don’t believe in writing articles that the people I’m researching cannot read themselves.”

Jones said one such article was shared with the public and a week later, more than 700 people had read it. 

“What really impacted me was that a majority of them weren’t academics,” Jones said. ‘Right, so folks were reading academic scholarship and they never would have read it outside of that.” 

To combat what she sees as inaccessibility within academia, Jones argued for public scholarship or street scholarship so that everyone has the opportunity to be educated.

“Meaningful change is not going to happen in these four walls of our institutions,” Jones said. 

As her form of street scholarship, Jones uses her social media platform, which now has over 60,000 followers, to bring awareness to issues faced by students of color within academia as well as issues Black people face daily. 

“I do what I do because I want to create a change,” Jones said, “I want to educate, right, I want to advocate, for me specifically, for the Black community. I want to help liberate those that have been marginalized,” Jones said.

For example, Jones has used her social media platform to raise awareness for Julius Jones, a former death row inmate whose sentence was commuted to life imprisonment four hours before his scheduled execution last year.  

She said that many people were able to attend in-person protests against his impending execution, but others were not. So Jones used her platform on Instagram to hold a virtual rally. Jones invited people to speak on her live feed.

 “You want to be able to feel like you’re in a community, so I was able to use social media to do this,” she said.

Using Instagram, Jones developed a podcast titled “Counterstory,” which according to Jones, discusses critical race theory. She also does a show called “Unapologetic” with her colleague, Kate Slater.

Although Jones uses social media as her platform, she believes that is not the only way to share a message.

As alternatives to social media, Jones cited her Emmy award-winning friend Emmai Alaquiva. “He uses art and photography,” she said.  “He just had an opening in Pittsburg and he had this whole showcase where he interviewed the mothers of the black men who had been murdered by the cops. And it was a powerful thing. Right, so he’s educating folks, he's talking about social justice but in a way that doesn’t require academic jargon.”

Jones also mentioned Assistant Professor of Educational Outreach Candace Hall, who produced a documentary titled “Clusterluck” which documents the experiences of Black faculty members in a predominantly white institution. “It’s rooted in her research and it's really dope social justice work. But she did it as a documentary,” Jones said. 

Jones also argued for the importance of listening and advocating for other marginalized groups. 

“You can fight for any marginalized community and be fighting for social justice. It doesn’t have to be my community,” she said. “Just like the platform on which you do it can be different, for me who you’re fighting for can be different.”

Through her work, Jones has faced a lot of threats and denial of her work. “I get death threats and things like that on a regular basis…This is my life, and this is just a regular thing,” she said. 

Jones also shared that her followers do help minimize the effects of these comments. Jones described an incident where a man threatened her life and her followers helped inform the FBI of his hatecrime. Jones said the man was a correctional officer. 

“I’d never advocate for folks going into this work without also letting you know the potential consequences,” Jones said.

She also describes the effects of these comments as being physical and professional.

Jones’s podcast partner Slater has also seen these consequences. According to Jones, Slater was doxxed last summer with pictures of her house posted all over the internet. 

“To me, she is the epitome of what white allyship should look like,” Jones said, “She had every reason to just stop the movement. She took a break for like a week, then was right back on social media.”

Another difficulty Jones faced is how she should publish her book. Although Jones is challenging academia through her book, she also acknowledges how necessary it is to remain within the system. Jones stated that she published her book through academia so that it would be respected, but she also said, she's not doing it for academia but for her community.

Jones’s final form of public scholarship mentioned is hip-hop. In her book, Jones starts every chapter with a different hip-hop lyric. For chapter 10, Jones described the reasoning behind the lyrics.

 “I started this chapter with lyrics from ‘Juicy’ for several reasons,” Jones said. “First, I will never miss an opportunity to rep Brooklyn, rest in peace Biggie. Second, to acknowledge the reach and impact of hip-hop. And lastly, to remind us that the potential of something is not determined by our ability to see it. Hip-hop was underestimated but has flourished anyway, the same is true for the evolution of public scholarship and social media.”

For more information, visit Jones’ website.

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