At the 19th annual Change the Status Quo Social Justice Leadership Conference, keynote speaker Sonya Renee Taylor relayed a message of “radical self-love.” 

The Center for Service in Action hosted the event on Saturday, Feb. 27 over zoom, with the goal to empower attendees to “use the Learn by Doing spirit to challenge social norms, ask critical questions, demand solutions and make lasting social change,” according to their website. 

The event featured a line-up of student and guest speakers, but keynote speaker Sonya Renee Taylor, a renowned poet, author and social justice activist, took the main stage where over 260 attendees listened to her speak.

In her address, Taylor read excerpts from her newly released book, “The Body is Not an Apology,” which is currently on the New York Times best-selling list.

Taylor gave a definition of what she means by “radical self-love,” describing it as a journey back to self.

Taylor said that self-confidence, self-esteem and self-acceptance are “not strong enough to beat hatred and oppression” and are not the same thing as radical self-love. She said that unlike similar concepts, radical self-love is inherently political and that practicing radical-self love is the key to breaking down white supremacy, capitalism and patriarchy.

“Our world needs a drastic revolution of the political, economic and social structures that currently malign, denigrate and kill the bodies that it does not value,” Taylor said.

She asked the audience to imagine what the world would look like if it were built on radical self-love instead of systems of oppression and said that we must include ourselves on our journey to liberation.

Student chair of this year’s Change the Status Quo planning committee Katherine Arboleda said she was inspired by Taylor’s message.

“The takeaway that really stood out to me was this idea of radical self-love and how that can really help with liberation of not just yourself, but also help with liberation from all of these -isms like racism, homophobia, all those kinds of issues,” Arboleda said. 

Senior coordinator for the Center for Service and Action Bradley Kyker said he believes that Taylor’s entire ideology can really do a lot for “moving the needle on social change”. 

“She is talking about completely deconstructing the system, which is exactly the type of keynote speaker we want to bring to this conference,” Kyker said. “The spirit of this conference is changing the status quo, so how do students and other participants find that way that we all can step into our particular role and do that as a community?”

Taylor said she believes that students who wish to commit themselves to social change are to always practice on themselves.

“Cultivate the conditions of equity, justice and compassion in your relationship with yourself, and then you will actually know how to translate that into the world,” Taylor said. “Until we know how to cultivate that in ourselves, then we won’t actually know how to make it sustainable in any of the other structures that we desire to.”

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