“I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.”
- George Bernard Shaw
One of Rukiya Dillahunt’s favorite quotes inspires her life’s work as an education, labor and peace activist.
Rukiya’s dedication to southeast Raleigh began when she moved here over 30 years ago with her husband. While raising three daughters, they were involved with grassroots union-organizing and workers rights through Black Workers for Justice. As a teacher and vice principal with Wake County schools, Rukiya advocated that students should not be pushed out of school and encouraged her students to believe in their own potential.
During her tenure as an educator she served as President of Wake County North Carolina Association Of Education for three years fighting for salary increases for teachers.
Now retired, Rukiya volunteers her time with Education Justice Alliance, a group that advocates for children and parents of suspended students with parent trainings and other supportive activities. Her fierce dedication to ending the school-to-prison pipeline comes from years of witnessing how educators impeded their students’ chances to stay engaged and to achieve. Rukiya points out that the call for protection in the wake of the Columbine tragedy is what led to a police presence in so many schools today, and she wants to see fewer police officers and more counselors and social workers to support students. She also believes that bringing back peer mediation and introducing restorative justice programs such as peace circles and mindfulness programs will strengthen educator and administrative efforts to maintain peace at school.
Bringing healthy foods to her community is another passion for Rukiya. She is involved with Fertile Ground Food Cooperative, which has been organizing and building its membership for almost four years in anticipation of opening its doors in a food desert.
Fellow activist Bridgette Burge shares, “Rukiya always comes to mind right away when I think of today's movement leaders. For more than 15 years, I've learned from and been inspired by Rukiya's steadfast commitment to racial justice, women's liberation, and her leadership in fighting the school-to-prison pipeline in Wake County. Through her lived example, and sometimes by calling folks to the carpet, Rukiya holds us to our higher values of justice, integrity, and fairness. If she signs her emails, In struggle instead of In solidarity, you know you've got some work to do! But Rukiya is not one to give up on people. Like all the best teachers, Rukiya pushes people to be their best selves so that we can show up strong together in the streets. Mama Ru is truly a beloved movement mother.”
Rukiya recalls a friend with eight children remarking that thanks to Obamacare, for the first time he has health insurance for himself and for every one of his children. “Things have changed in the U.S. and in North Carolina, and we must not sit back while the changes ahead make it harder for people to secure decent housing and food for their families. It is no longer whether you can become ‘middle class’ – it’s whether you have the basic necessities to survive.” We can no longer be silent as we look at others being active. It is urgent for us to get involved in a social justice issue.
“Women hold up half the sky.”
- Black Workers For Justice Women’s Commission used this quote as we struggled against Patriarchy, and Male Chauvinism educating ourselves and members as we continued to organize workers in the South.