Black Lives Matter lecture traces movement's history

The Department of African American Studies spoke about how BLM has been reflected in art and literature at a lecture on Wednesday.

Syracuse University’s Department of African American Studies held a presentation on Wednesday about how the Black Lives Matter movement of today is reflected in different forms of art, history and literature of the past.

The presentation, called Black Lives Matter in Art, History and Literature, was held in 214 Slocum and consisted of three speeches, each delivered by a professor of both the African American Studies and English departments at SU.

“See this as an opportunity to advance through leadership on the questions that affect us.”
-Clemmie Harris, Ph.D.

The speakers at the event were Assistant Professor of English Meina Yates-Richard, Ph.D., Visiting Professor in African American Studies, Clemmie Harris, Ph.D. and Assistant Professor of African American Studies, Casarae Gibson, Ph.D.

Janis Mayes, an associate professor in African American Studies, gave a prelude to the event, describing how the presentation was the brainchild of Gibson, one of the newest members of the Department of African American Studies.

Yates-Richard, who was the first speaker to present, focused her speech on how the Black Lives Matter Movement is reflected in various works of black literature. Yates-Richard references works such as Toni Morrison’s "Song of Solomon", Ralph Ellison’s "Invisible Man", and Frederick Douglass’ "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass."  Yates-Richard also discussed the position of black women, both in these works of literature and the Black Lives Matter Movement.

“This evening I want us to consider the gendered aspects of black liberatory activism in the U.S. historically,” Yates-Richard said. “By focusing upon literary representations of the sounds of black women and their roles within the construction of black nationalist ideology.”

The second presenter of the night, Professor Harris, delivered a speech entitled “Why Police Reform is Not Enough: Race, Urban Neighborhoods, and the Selective Enforcement of Stop and Frisk.”

Harris discussed the harmful nature of Stop and Frisk law and how its continued enforcement could possibly lead to an increase in the death of black citizens at the hands of the police. Harris stressed that the amount of work to fix the issue is still ongoing.

“The present debate must situate police reform within a larger policy discussion, which also seeks to end the broader structural problems of segregation and poverty and sociocultural foundations of implicit racism,” Harris said.

The last speaker, Professor Gibson, honed in on how hip-hop culture, particularly that which is seen in Spike Lee’s 1989 film, Do the Right Thing, and how it mirrors the racial climate that exists between law enforcement and people of color today.

“Hip-hop represented a counter-cultural movement that affirmed black youth were retaliating against several assumptions within American society, such as highlighting class differences in black communities, challenging normative while middle class values and commenting on policy reform related to criminal justice,” Gibson said.

At the end of the event, which took place just hours after Donald Trump was elected president of the U.S., attendees raised questions on the future state of race relations in America.

Professor Harris offered a hopeful piece of advice.

“Do not mourn,” Harris said. “See this as an opportunity to advance through leadership on the questions that affect us.”

Great job Cory!!!! Awesome

Great job Cory!!!! Awesome story!!!!

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