Sept. 18 Penn State symposium to examine effects of racism, injustice

September 10, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — “Reflection on Organizing and Power: Anti-Black Police Brutality and the Popular Uprisings,” a symposium presented by the Penn State Consortium for Social Movements and Education and the Africana Research Center, will take place on Zoom from 1 to 4:15 p.m. Sept. 18.

The Consortium for Social Movements and Education is a new initiative led by faculty in the College of Education and College of the Liberal Arts.

“The sponsorship of the College of Education has been critical,” said Rebecca Tarlau, assistant professor of education (labor and employment relations). “The College of Education has been a huge supporter of this initiative and Dean Lawless offered startup money for the initiative. The other major supporter of the Consortium has been the College of the Liberal Arts. The Penn State Philadelphia Center, which is housed within Penn State Outreach, has also been the other major supporter and financial sponsor.”

Pre-symposium activities will be held throughout the week as well. 

“The global COVID-19 pandemic has obviously created a lot of disruption and constraint on our lives and learning; in some ways though, it opens up new possibilities,” said Tanner Vea, assistant professor of education (learning and performance systems).

“Participants will use Padlet, an online collaboration space, to reflect on their own commitments, brainstorm questions for invited speakers, and share articles and resources. I’m excited to see how technology can help create shared opportunities for us to learn together across the Penn State campuses,” Vea said.

As of Sept. 10, 375 people had registered, according to Tarlau. (Those interested in viewing the presentation may register by clicking here.)

Of those 375, Tarlau said, 31% are graduate students, 28.5% undergraduate, 23% faculty and 14.5% staff, with a few other Penn State community members.

“Also importantly, only 70% are from University Park; we have 24 campuses represented,” Tarlau said. “The amount of people that registered, and the fact that the participants include students, faculty, and staff, illustrates that our Penn State community is thirsting for these types of conversations.”

Tarlau said people were asked on the registration form why they wanted to attend the symposium. She said typical answers included:

— "To work against the anti-blackness that lives deeply within our institution”;

— "I really want to continue to educate myself as much as I can regarding the Black Lives Matter movement”; and 

— "To be a better anti-racist ally, learn how to analyze and change my materials, find outlets for action."

Tarlau said the answers show that there are members of the Penn State community who are dedicated to fighting against structural racism and want to learn more about how they can become anti-racist activists. 

“The social movement Black Lives Matter, and the diversity of actions, protests and anti-racist interventions it has inspired over the past years, has transformed our country and we all need to space and time to reflect on these developments and help to ensure that structural change takes place,” she said.

The symposium will provide frameworks and tools for students to analyze the recent Black Lives Matter protests within the broader context of Black freedom movements, articulate demands for structural change and speak from their own experiences. 

Additionally, participants will be able to analyze the relationships between structural and institutional racism and popular mobilizations.

The list of speakers includes:

  • Chenjerai Kumanyika, assistant professor of journalism and media studies at Rutgers University and organizer with 215 People’s Alliance and the Debt Collective;
  • Koby Murphy, youth organizer with the Philadelphia Student Union;
  • Valentina McKenzie, frontline grassroots organizer of a worker’s center and the Black Visions Collective in Minneapolis, speaking from her personal perspective and experience;
  • Jennifer Black, co-leader of the 3-20 Coalition, which formed in the wake of the police shooting of Osaze Osagie in State College; and 
  • Lorraine Jones, co-leader of the 3-20 Coalition.

Joining the College of Education as sponsors are the College of the Liberal Arts; Penn State Outreach; Department of African American Studies; Department of Sociology and Criminology; Department of Political Science; Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies; the School of Labor and Employment Relations; the LABOR School; Philadelphia Participatory Research Collective; Center for Intercultural Leadership & Communication; Center for Global Workers’ Rights; Criminal Justice Research Center; Penn State Black Caucus; Black Graduate Student Association; Pan-African Professional Alliance; and Philosophy Graduate Student Organization.

Click here to register.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 15, 2021