Black Lives Matter Teach-In Kicks off Week of Events

Faculty, staff, and students gathered on Page Terrace — socially distanced and wearing face coverings — for teach-ins on September 7 and 8 to talk about systemic racism and police brutality. Amy Tillerson-Brown, professor of history and co-leader of MBU’s Coalition for Racial and Social Justice, organized and led the events. 

“This summer has been one that we will not soon forget,” said Tillerson-Brown as she welcomed participants on Monday. “The coronavirus that produces the currently incurable disease COVID-19 that has killed 189,000 people in the United States to date and the disease of racism that has been thriving on these shores since the 17th century continue to take lives.”

Day one of the Black Lives Matter teach-ins on MBU’s Page Terrace

On day one of the teach-ins, Tillerson-Brown shared stories of racial violence against Black people including Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Eric Garner, and Jacob Blake. 

Katie Low, MBU chaplain and associate professor of religion, spoke about the curse of Ham, a misinterpretation of a biblical story from Genesis, that has been used as a justification for racism for centuries.

Rod Owen, professor of philosophy and co-leader of the Coalition for Racial and Social Justice, addressed mass incarceration, systemic racism in the criminal justice system, and how the bail bond system exploits vulnerable people. 

Students came to the podium to respond and brainstorm ways to get involved in social justice efforts on campus and beyond.

Day two of the teach-in featured a mini-lecture from Tillerson-Brown tracking the repetition of violent acts against Black individuals through history and the unequal protection that they receive under the law. She focused especially on the murder of 15-year-old Latasha Harlins by a store owner in the early ‘90s and how that incident combined with the brutal beating of Rodney King to lead up to the Los Angeles riots.

She then led participants to reflect on how the summer of 2020 is different from earlier movements and how the current uprising might fit into the history of activism against racial violence and oppression.

MBU’s teach-ins are part of the nationwide #ScholarStrike, a two-day action on September 8–9 where university communities pause to engage in conversations about  police violence and racial injustice in America.

More Black Lives Matter events this week include “Speak Out” for students to share stories and discuss solutions and “The Writing on the Wall” where student organizations use art activism to protest racism and police brutality.