Black Lives Matter Speaker Series at USC Upstate

August 24, 2015 at 9:05 am

One year after Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, conversations about racial justice in the United States continue. While the murders of nine parishioners at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston led to the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina state capitol, the deaths of Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, and Christian Taylor and mounting protests against police brutality suggest that race continues to divide the nation.

An $8,000 grant from The Humanities Council SC is assisting the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of South Carolina Upstate to host a speaker series on 21st century race relations entitled “Black Lives Matter” this fall. This series is a collaborative effort among USC Upstate faculty members Dr. Lisa Johnson, Dr. Carmen Harris, Dr. Cassandra Jones and Dr. Laura Jennings, with support from numerous offices and departments on campus, as well as Chapman Cultural Center, the Urban League of the Upstate, and Spoken Word Spartanburg.

“The Black Lives Matter Speaker Series has remained a timely project since first conceptualized in December 2014. Hardly a week has gone by without additional examples of systemic racism,” said Dr. Johnson, director of the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies.

“We believe education is necessary to lessen these incidents,” said Dr. Harris, professor of History and African American Studies. “There are some who hear the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ and presume it means black lives matter more than all others. In reality it expresses the opposite—the feeling that all other lives seem to matter more than black lives. We want to help the public understand why that sentiment exists.”

Coined by Alicia Garza as a Twitter hashtag in 2012, the phrase originally responded to the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin. Over the past three years, it has provided a unifying thread for protestors addressing a pattern of violence against the Black community, and for university lecture series across the nation.

The Black Lives Matter Speaker Series includes:

Thursday, Sept. 24, 6 p.m., Sansbury Campus Life Center Ballroom, USC Upstate

Dr. Tricia Rose            “Making Black Lives Matter”

Rose, an internationally respected scholar of post-civil rights era Black U.S. culture, popular music, social issues, gender and sexuality, will offer insights on the history of Black community-building in late twentieth-century and early twenty-first-century America. Rose has been featured on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and other national and local media outlets.

Thursday, Oct. 1, 6 p.m., Sansbury Campus Life Center Ballroom, USC Upstate

Dr. Brittney Cooper    “#SayHerName: Toward A Gender-Inclusive Movement for Black Lives”

Cooper, an assistant professor of women’s and gender studies and Africana studies at Rutgers University, will offer perspectives on the intersection of race and gender, noting especially the muted recognition of Black women victims of state violence.

Thursday, Oct. 8, 6 p.m., Chapman Cultural Center Theater

Dr. Eduardo Bonilla-Silva      “Racism in Post-Racial Times”

Bonilla-Silva, professor and chair of sociology at Duke University, will address the complexity of racial politics in a society that frequently espouses “color-blindness.” Trained primarily in class analysis, political sociology, and globalization, his recent work has focused on race, citizenship, whiteness, and the Obama administration.

Thursday, Nov. 19, 6 p.m., Sansbury Campus Life Center Ballroom, USC Upstate

Facilitated By Marlanda Dekine         Speaking Down Barriers at Upstate: Community Dialogue”

Dekine, a Licensed Master Social Worker, spoken word poet, and community organizer in Spartanburg and Greenville, has developed a nonprofit organization called Speaking Down Barriers that facilitates effective, honest community dialogue on race and racism and offers intensive anti-racism training to community citizens, leaders, and students.




All events are free and open to the public. For more information, contact Dr. Esther Godfrey, interim director of the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, at (864) 503-5602 or