Panel of professors and students reflect on the #BLM meaning
Celia Martinez and Emma Pollans
May 3, 2018
A wandering eye may have noticed the Angela Davis quote written on a whiteboard off to the side of Sobrato Commons. It read, “I’m no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I’m changing the things I can no longer accept.”
This quote set the mood for the occasion. Attentive Santa Clara community members gathered together for an evening of learning, solidarity and reflection.
“#BlackLivesMatter: Where Do We Go From Here?” was held in the Sobrato Commons on April 24. The talk consisted of a panel of Santa Clara professors Danielle Morgan and Aldo Billingslea, as well as junior Sophia Parnell and senior Gary Vincent.
To preface the event, the facilitators, sophomore Kirsten Dodre and senior Athena Nguyen briefly discussed the vandalization of a Black Lives Matter bulletin board that occured in the Casa Italiana Hall during the month of February.
They said, “In light of these events, we stand with love, solidarity and critical reflection with those targeted by these incidents. As members of the SCU community dedicated to being people for and with others, it is especially important that we do not allow these acts of ignorance to go unchallenged and unquestioned.”
The next phase of the event included the showing of “An Overreaction: Words On #BlackLivesMatter and MLK,” a video which focused on the struggles black individuals have faced throughout history.
Following these introductions, the panelists were asked the first question by the facilitators: “What does #BlackLivesMatter mean to you?”
“It serves for me as sort of a reminder about the precarity of blackness and of black life in the United States,” Morgan said. “It always strikes me the fact that the phrase itself is so innocuous. It’s just sort of a statement of consideration or even a sense of caring about something. The fact that a phrase like Black Lives Matter can be taken as a terroristic threat—it makes you have to question which of those three words has a terrorizing aspect.”
Billingslea described it as a “coalescing call to action, that it brings people together as well as helps define who the allies are.”
Billingslea also talked about an event that happened on Santa Clara’s campus following the Ferguson riots in 2014. He and several other students participated in a die-in on campus, a form of protest in which people lie down and act as if they are dead.
In hopes of being as non-controversial as possible, Billingslea and the students created a banner that said “Justice Matters” as opposed to the popular slogan of “#BlackLivesMatter.”
“I made the terrible mistake of running away from the term,” Billingslea said.
The panelists were then asked what kinds of misconceptions they think students may have about Black Lives Matter.
The overwhelming response from the panelists—particularly from Parnell—was that the phrase Black Lives Matters is not meant to be regarded as “anti-white.”
Parnell said, and Vincent agreed, that the phrase is not meant to diminish the struggles of other people, no matter their race.
Additionally, the panelists felt that there exists a misconception that black rage is unjustified.
“[This movement] is really just us saying our humanity is here, it exists and our lives matter,” Parnell said.
The third question dealt with allyship. The panelists stressed how important it is to stand up for and with people of color. Morgan and Vincent emphasized the importance of using one’s position of privilege to help others who may not be as privileged.
Morgan said that one of the best pieces of advice she has received in relation to the Black Lives Matter movement is that “the frontline is wherever you draw it,” meaning that activism on all levels is important. “Sometimes just standing up in your space, in your friend group and saying no or saying enough can be a protest,” she said.
The facilitators asked the panelists how they find the strength and courage to keep working towards justice. Vincent talked about history and pointed to his family as a source of hope.
“My parents, my grandparents, their parents, their grandparents,” he said. “All the things they had to endure to get to where we are right now. How can you give up right now in 2018? We just can’t give up.”
Contact Celia Martinez at firstname.lastname@example.org and Emma Pollans at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.