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Black Lives Matter activist speaks at CAAS event co-sponsored by School of Social Work

DeRay McKesson, Black Lives Matter activist (Photo by Monica S. Nagy)
DeRay McKesson, Black Lives Matter activist (Photo by Monica S. Nagy)

Prominent Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson, who has spoken with former President Barack Obama at the White House and has made guest appearances on cable TV, spoke at UTA Feb. 25 on the legacy of racism in the U.S.

UTA’s School of Social Work co-sponsored McKesson’s closing keynote address Feb. 25 as a part of UTA’s Center for African American Studies'  fifth annual conference on “Critical Issues in the Black Community: Examining Civil Rights and Liberties.”

After the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer on Aug. 9, 2014, McKesson left his job in school administration and actively participated in protests in Ferguson. He later founded and became the co-editor of the Ferguson Protestor Newsletter.

“Resistance is not just a set of actions, resistance is a mindset,” McKesson told the crowd. “When we think about the legacy of racism in this country, the impacts are real.”

McKesson appeared alongside Johnetta Elzie for the 11th spot on Fortune’s World’s Greatest Leaders List in 2015.  

Alongside Elzie and other notable activists, McKesson started Campaign Zero, a public policy campaign with specific proposals for police reform. McKesson has appeared on CNN, “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.”

This year’s conference focused on finding progressive solutions to social problems, and identifying strategies to drive social change within the black community and outward. Attendees will examined their development and role within the black community.

“All we are trying to do is say, ‘Our lives matter as much as everyone else’s,’” said Jason Shelton, director of UTA’s Center for African American Studies.

“How do we allow people to show up as whole people in this world?” McKesson asked the crowd.

He said until society breaks out of a model that whiteness is the norm, nothing is going to change.

McKesson, who had over 720,000 Twitter followers @deray at the time of publication, took answers from students on topics from promoting peaceful social activism to explain the importance of the Black Lives Matter Movement.

“Our students overwhelmingly requested DeRay to come talk about his work to address tensions between African Americans and law enforcement. We were beyond thrilled to have him speak,” said Shelton.

 “Social activism is imperative to decrease the disenfranchisement of the historically oppressed,” said Scott Ryan, dean of the School of Social Work. “We hope our students are empowered by Mr. McKesson’s work.”

News Topics: General
Tags: CAAS, Black Lives Matter, Social Work