As the “Black Lives Matter” protest movement begun in Ferguson, Missouri, expanded across the nation in late 2014, Duke Divinity School hosted a service and discussion that drew a few hundred students. Led by the Office of Black Church Studies, the conversations would continue into 2015, said Rev. Eboni Marshall Turman, and they have.
On Wednesday evening, invited panelists gathered to talk about “Black Lives Matter” in front of a smaller but still engaged group of Divinity students at the school.
Panelists were Rev. Osagyefo Sekou, a pastor and activist; and professors Leah Gunning Francis of Eden Theological Seminary; Frank Roberts of New York University and Brittney Cooper of Rutgers University, as well as Duke Divinity’s J. Kameron Carter.
For Sekou, the blood of Mike Brown has seeded a great revolution in America, he said. Brown was the unarmed teenager shot and killed in Ferguson by police officer Darren Wilson in August. Ferguson looks and sounds different than other social movements, Sekou said, and it’s rageful and angry.
“We’ve raised a generation that will not bow down,” he said, to tanks and tear gas during protests. “I’ve been born again in the streets of Ferguson.”
Gunning Francis posed the question: “To whom do black lives matter?” She talked about Wilson’s description of Brown and the stereotype played throughout history of black men not being really human. She said that a contributor is the narrative of gangsta rap. Gunning Francis made clear that she was not referring to rap or hip-hop overall, but the many songs that glorify violence and disrespect women.
“If we’re going to keep saying ‘Black Lives Matter,’ ask, ‘What are the images of black men and women today?’” she said.
For Roberts, “Black Lives Matter” is a period in African-American history that will be looked on by children and historians as ironic because the movement occurs at the same time a black president and attorney general are in office.
“So my question is, ‘How do we make sense of that?’” Roberts gave the historical context of white supremacy backlash following a short period of progress. He said that African Americans were expecting President Barack Obama to be Moses and instead got Pharaoh.
“The age of Obama has been a nightmare for black people,” Roberts said. He said that instead of measuring progress from the top down in terms of breaking glass ceilings, it should be measured by those at the bottom.
Source: The Herald Sun | Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan