Melissa
Denizard

Details

Biography
Topics
African Americans
Economy/Economic Visions
Education
Environment
Film & Video
Programs for High School Students
Racism/Racial Justice
Summer Institute Instructors
Technology
U.S. History
Women & Feminism
Youth/Student Activism

Melissa Denizard, a native of Haiti, is a 21-year old activist, organizer, and documentarian. Since high school, Melissa has been committed to social justice, particularly pro-Black liberation. She uses several mediums, including public speaking, film, digital media, graphic design, and the written word, to help innovate Gen Z’s approach to political theory and discourse, specifically in regards to how they address issues relating to race, gender, and social class within the United States’ political framework.

Along with providing a grounding for her political ideology and praxis, Black Feminism serves as a guiding light for Melissa’s perpetual self-reflection. Melissa has continuously and brilliantly utilized her identity as the beacon for her social justice work.

In high school, Melissa founded and organized StrongER Students, a student advocacy group that advocated for a just education system in New York State's predominantly low-income and immigrant Black and Latino East Ramapo Central School District. The student-led rally led to a meeting with top New York State Senators; this meeting spearheaded the restoration of a New York State funded three-year arts and music programs and full day kindergarten in the East Ramapo Central School District. StrongER Students also pushed the Superintendent of Schools to begin meeting regularly with the district's students -- an initiative that acknowledged students as key stakeholders in the school district's decision making process. Over a span of six years, Melissa has gained experience with leading and organizing local social justice organizations and movements.

Through her work with social justice and documentary filmmaking, Melissa used her own funds to visit Puerto Rico to learn more about Hurricane Maria's effects on the island. While in Puerto Rico, she captured footage for Los Olvidados, a documentary she created about Puerto Rico's financial crisis, the effects of Hurricane Maria on the island, and whether Puerto Rico should pursue independence or statehood from the United States. Subsequently, Melissa hosted and organized a film screening followed by a student panel that encouraged community building and provided a platform for the audience to learn more about social justice issues in Puerto Rico. Shortly after, in October 2018, Melissa created a proposal that secured $1,000 in grant funding through Babson College’s Glavin Global Fellows Program to conduct research and ultimately create a docuseries on the Flint Water Crisis. The key purpose of this docuseries, How to Celebrate Thanksgiving Without Clean Water, is to look at how and why Flint, Michigan, an American city with a primarily poor and Black population was thrust into this environmental, economic, and human rights disaster.

As an alumna of the Young People For Fellowship, Melissa had the opportunity to expand upon her technological social venture Voice, which is an online platform that aims to make digital organizing more equitable, efficient, and sufficient for contemporary grassroots activists.

In 2018, Melissa’s YouTube video, "Unbraid with Me: Is Hair Political?" was featured on Brut Media and Refinery29. Later that year, her blog post, "Don't Tell Me to Smile: A Commentary on Harassment in the Service Industry" – a testimony of her time working at a fast food restaurant in Nanuet, NY -- was adapted into a TEDx talk for TEDxTarrytown.

 

Testimonials

Melissa and I had a wide-ranging conversation about masculinity, allyship, and advocacy. She demonstrated an ability to guide the conversation while asking thoughtful questions and providing context through her personal experience. I recommend Melissa as a public speaker, moderator, and panelist. She's awesome! -Jason Rosario, Founder of "The Lives of Men"

Melissa is an amazing, captivating and inspiring, poised speaker. Her message is clear and her warmth exudes. I cannot wait to see Melissa on another stage. Fantastic speaker! -Robin Joy Meyers, The Fearless Women's Summit 


Melissa participated during the Conference as a panelist for our Activism panel where she shared her passions and experiences in organizing and activism. She left the event leaving young and adult women motivated to go out and also be game changers in society. It was truly an honor to have Melissa as a speaker for our event. -Rebeca Lafond, Brooklyn College -- Women of Color Political Conference


Melissa skillfully moderated a discussion for an undergraduate audience focused on masculinity and #metoo. It was a pleasure to work with Melissa, and I hope our paths cross again. -Ashleigh Hala, Babson College


Melissa's forum was an incredibly well-organized dialogue on what forms of support our community needed in order to excel on campus upon entering the new year. She compelled the audience to think of ways they can utilize social justice theory in order to create a new and better Babson community. Event attendees left with a clear understanding of how they can better support marginalized students at the college. Since this conversation was held, I can see and feel the waves of necessary change the Babson College community needs coming from higher levels of administration. -Babson College


Melissa is passionate, smart, and extremely clear about her ideas and messages. Melissa is an engaging, warm, thought provoking, and strong speaker. It was an honor to have her on the TEDxTarrytown stage and I feel that her presence elevated our event. -Kimberly Marcus, TEDxTarrytown


 

Speeches

Blackness is as Delicious as Gumbo: An Exploration of the Black Identity
What ties the Black diaspora together: culture or pain? Fusing lecture and seminar styles to provide young people with an innovative approach to learn political theory, this presentation aims to explore Black culture and the diasporic pain experienced by Black people by using Solange Knowles' albums, A Seat at the Table and When I Get Home as key contemporary pop cultural sources to analyze similar themes that have been echoed throughout the Black Radical Tradition.

Transforming Struggle Into Opportunity: How I Use My Identity to Fuel my Social Justice Work
Along with providing a grounding for her political ideology and praxis, Black Feminism serves as a guiding light for Melissa’s perpetual self-reflection. In this talk, Melissa discusses her genesis in social justice, how she has connected theory to praxis, and how she has continuously and brilliantly utilized her identity as the beacon for her social justice work. Ultimately, Melissa urges listeners to consider the appropriation of the Combahee River Collective’s notion of identity politics and why we need to reclaim the phrase’s roots in the Black Radical Tradition.

Everything Is Capital: An Analysis of Capitalism's Role in the Movement for Black Lives
Can the use of capitalism provide an avenue for Black liberation? Fusing lecture and seminar styles to provide young people with an innovative approach to learn political theory, this presentation aims to explore the role that capitalism can play in the Black liberation struggle by using The Carters’ (more commonly known as Beyoncé and Jay-Z) Everything is Love album as a key contemporary pop cultural source to analyze similar themes that have been echoed throughout the Black radical tradition.







 

Media