Home Social Justice Costa Lecture Series speaker connects Black Power and Black Lives Matter movements

Costa Lecture Series speaker connects Black Power and Black Lives Matter movements

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Peniel Joseph, a history professor at Tufts University, walked his audience through the evolution of the Black Power Movement during his lecture “Reimagining the Black Power Movement in the Age of Obama and Black Lives Matter” last Thursday.

The award-winning author of “Waiting ‘Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America and Dark Days” spoke as part of the 38th Annual Costa Lecture series about what he believes makes social movements successful.

Black Power, which Joseph defined as “the movement for radical, social, political, economic, cultural self-determination,” was successful in part, Joseph believes, because it had a leader — someone to tell the believers of the movement how to go about making their dreams, goals and visions reality.

He said the problem movements such as Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street face today is the lack of a strong figure to guide their revolution. Joseph attributed this to the makeup of these movements, consisting of a young generation whose knowledge of history, he believes, can and should be deeper.

When asked if he thought there was a reason young people didn’t have a richer understanding of black history or the history of their movement, he challenged the education system and its ability to give students enough unbiased information so they are able to interpret and understand it in accordance with their own beliefs.

“I think it’s education and what educational institutions don’t and do prioritize,” Joseph said. “What I’m saying about young people not knowing — I think they need to know the story and also different interpretations of the story and come up with their own interpretation, that’s what education is.”

At first, he talked about his mother, who he said grew up in Brooklyn, a city that was racially segregated where “black and brown people were dying and being killed by police.”

It was a time before people took notice of the killing of black lives, before the killings of men such as Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown swept the nation and ignited riots in their hometowns.

As his lecture progressed, Joseph touched on events leading up to and during the Civil Rights Movement. Eventually, activists like his mother found a spearhead for their cause: the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

King, his followers and other leaders in the movement fought for equal rights for blacks and all races considered “colored” through peaceful protests, sit-ins and walks, such as the famous march from Selma to Montgomery.

The Civil Rights Movement also found other leaders in Malcolm X and the Black Panthers. His movement and beliefs are at the heart of the Black Power movements people know today.

In closing, Joseph mentioned the Black Lives Matter Movement and what he finds most hopeful about the organization.

“The most hopeful thing,” Joseph said, “is that people are being bold enough to speak truth to power and at its best, what Black Lives Matter is doing, is its understanding the history that preceded it — not being burdened by that history.”

Matt McGuire, a history graduate student at Ohio University, enjoyed Joseph’s organization of the lecture.

“I particularly liked how he connected the Black Power Movement, the Black Lives Matter Movement, and the Civil Rights Movement…to an overall movement for social justice, equality and was inclusive of gender, sexual orientation, et cetera.”

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