ST. PETERSBURG — Ashley Green, 28, has always admired superheroes. She first became captivated by them as she read through her “X-Men” comic books where the epic battles between Professor Xavier and Magneto mesmerized her young mind.
Good versus evil — the perfect way to define her activism.
Green has volunteered with Florida Public Services Union, Organizing for America and is currently working to help pass Florida Amendment 4, the Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative. But what she is most proud of is her work with the Dream Defenders, an organization and movement for freedom and liberation.
Green arrived in St. Pete from Atlanta a couple of years ago and began working with underrepresented youth. She feels there’s something magical in the Sunshine City and her biggest goal is to help folks here unleash their power.
Of course, struggles have appeared along the way. Frustration sets in when she sees people with potential resign themselves to the status quo.
“This is the way things are. It gets frustrating. But the folks are coming together at this moment and the things that I see happening in St. Pete make this one of the most exciting places,” she said.
Growing up in Atlanta, the experience was vastly different from here in St. Pete.
“There’s such a rich history that I didn’t have the scope of what it meant to be black in America,” she said, noting that although she did experience racism in Atlanta, but living in St. Pete took the experience to another level.
On discrimination in the African-American community, Green believes that bias is the wrong word. To her, there’s a very intentional division among most black communities, something that has been planned and executed.
The “X- Men” comics are a metaphor for Green’s life. Her favorite superheroes fight for peace and equality between humans and mutants while battling against anti-mutant bigotry. She believes that everyone deserves justice and freedom and has spent most of her 28 years working towards it.
For example, the comic book character Magneto is a villain who generates and controls magnetic fields. In Green’s world, inequality is the anti-hero rearing its ugly head through income and educational disparities that leads straight to the school-to-prison pipeline.
“We are looking to dismantle this system that sees us as pieces of profit,” she said.
Green is appalled by children being physically and mentally imprisoned and wants to be a part of expanding their thoughts.
“Jail sucks,” she said with contempt. “I’ve met kids who have never gone to the beach, and they live three and four miles away from it. I call myself a dream defender. I think a lot about how I can defend a dream that a kid’s never had.”
Her first solution to many problems, she feels, can be fixed around a table full of fried okra, macaroni and cheese, collard greens and fried chicken.
“We’ve got to eat together more. The more we sit at a table with one another the better,” she said. “We have to start getting real about what it means to extract ourselves from the system, but not pulling ourselves away.”
Another solution is the community helping to supplement public education. If children are not learning in school, it’s up to the community to help. She proposes after-school programs that are community driven.
Also, she advocates for rehabilitation, not jail time.
“The jail itself has never been anybody’s tool to success. Why are we continuing to put millions and millions of dollars into ineffective solution,” Green asked.
In the “X-Men,” one group of mutants works towards peace and understanding between mutants and humans. The other considers that the human race is a threat and believes in taking an aggressive approach against them.
Green definitely sits in the first group. She believes in harmony and is working to move the society towards collective liberation.
This story is part of a 50-article series honoring black women in the Tampa Bay area.