University News

Alums of historically black colleges unpack Black Lives Matter movement

Four alums weigh in on struggles of black youths, larger impact of Black Lives Matter as social justice movement

Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 22, 2015

“Until we can actually agree to the fact that black lives matter, we can never get to the point where all lives matter,” said David Dennis, director of the Southern Initiative Algebra Project, at Monday’s panel.

“Black Lives Matter is not the substance of what we’re working for or arguing, it’s an assertion,” said Corey Walker, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Winston-Salem State University and former associate professor and chair of the department of Africana studies at Brown, during a panel Tuesday.

The panel featured four men, including Walker, who attended historically black colleges and universities. The panel focused on the struggles of black youth and what Black Lives Matter means as a social justice movement. About 30 people attended the event, most of whom were University faculty members and students.

Oliver Hill, professor of psychology at Virginia State University, spoke about how he was one of the first students to integrate into the school system in Richmond, Virginia. One of the few students of color at his school, Hill cited discreet racism as the most harrowing of his experiences.

“I really think that (subtle racism) had more of an impact on me than the overt racism I experienced as a child,” he said, adding that these acts of racism made him unconsciously change his behavior growing up.

David Dennis, director of the Southern Initiative Algebra Project, spoke about his work in the Civil Rights movement and addressed the argument that “all lives matter.”

“What this country has to embrace on Black Lives Matter is that until we can actually agree to the fact that black lives matter, we can never get to the point where all lives matter,” Dennis said, adding that the sentiments “all lives matter” and “black lives matter” must be kept separate.

Dennis pointed to the expendability of black males in the U.S. as a reason for police brutality and violence, adding that black communities have also been weakened since the Civil Rights movement.

“We don’t have communities anymore,” Dennis said, adding that though he was raised in a single-parent home, he grew up in a “real community” where he “had a whole bunch of fathers — the men protected the boys and the women protected the boys.”

A current lack of a sense of community has created a loss of identity for American black males, he added.

Kevin Favor, professor of psychology at Lincoln University, praised the Black Lives Matter movement for existing during a time of police brutality and displacement among black people.

“I’m pleased to see that the Black Lives Matter (movement) has risen to the degree that it has, and hopefully we’ll be able to continue to perpetuate because things cannot continue along the trend they seem to be going on,” Favor said.

The educational system must be redesigned in order for equality to come for black people who have been historically oppressed, Walker said.

“When these students come to (historically black colleges) they’re coming with an entire history behind them,” Walker said. “How do we respond to that?” he asked. “How do we develop a curriculum, an institution, where you can thrive in light of everything that you’ve experienced, in light of all that you have seen?”

Walker encouraged audience members to think of the Black Lives Matter movement as more than a hashtag, adding that “social media is the means, not the ends.”

After the four panelists ended their discussion, they opened up questions to the audience. One female attendee said even though she doesn’t “have black or brown skin,” the Black Lives Matter movement resonates with her, as she too faced discrimination growing up for being Jewish. “There are a lot of people who are not black or brown who want to be on your side, and sometimes, perhaps we feel like we don’t belong,” she added.

“This is not just our problem; this is not just our movement; this is America’s problem,” Dennis responded.

The discussion, entitled “Black Lives Matter: Recognizing and Minimizing Trauma Among Black Youth,” took place in the George Houston Bass Performing Arts Space in Churchill House. It was moderated by Françoise Hamlin, associate professor of Africana studies and history, and sponsored by the Pembroke Center, the Brown Center for Students of Color, the Department of Africana Studies, the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice and the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America.

To stay up-to-date, subscribe to our daily newsletter.


  1. ShadrachSmith says:

    Who put you in charge of whose life matters and how much? The value of human life is a sacred topic and you don’t speak for God, do you?

    • So you disagree with their position that black lives matter as much as white lives?

      • ShadrachSmith says:

        The Huffington Post reported that, “The argument that the Black Lives Matter movement is driving individuals to kill cops is ridiculous.”. I disagree, because of things like “Pigs in a blanket, fry ’em like bacon!” being chanted by a group of activists chanted at a recent protest in New York City.

        That seems bad to me.

        • Refreshing to hear someone say it loud and clear instead of couching it in dismissive “all lives matter” BS. I salute you for clearly stating that black lives do not matter and that it is a slight against god to claim otherwise.

          If BLM is driving people to kill cops it’s doing a pretty poor job since police murders are the lowest they’ve been under any two term president.

          • ShadrachSmith says:

            I clearly stated what I said, not what you said. What you said I said is a knowing lie, but you know that already.
            You be well and prosper, but I will look at the world through my own eyes, if you don’t mind 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *