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History and purpose of Black Lives Matter discussed at start of United Black World Month

Music, poetry and a conversation on the history of the Black Lives Matter movement launched the start of United Black World Month at The Ohio State University.

The Student Life Multicultural Center hosted the kick-off at the Ohio Union Wednesday night. It is the start of a series of programs and events through the month of February tied to the theme “Black Movements: Stories of Our Resistance.”

“It’s important to reaffirm who we are and acknowledge where we came from and where we want to go,” said Senior Vice President for Student Life Javaune Adams-Gaston.

Adams reminded students attending the event that movements that led to the abolition of slavery, civil rights and equality started with a small group of dedicated activists.

“Often in the stories of resistance, resistance starts in small numbers. A small number of people who are willing to make a stand,” she said.

The history and connections of the current Black Lives Matter movement was the focus of the evening.

Frank Leon Roberts speaks at the Ohio Union. Photo: Joshua Farr

Frank Leon Roberts, lecturer and faculty member at New York University’s Gallatin School, was the keynote speaker. Roberts is best known for his course “Black Lives Matter: Race, Resistance, and Popular Protest” - one of the first courses on the Black Lives Matter movement in the nation.

“First and foremost, Black Lives Matter is a human rights movement, seeking to rehumanize a dehumanized people,” Roberts said.

He said that goal is a distinction from civil rights organizations seeking desegregation or the right to vote.

Roberts noted the Black Lives Matter movement supports women’s rights and LGBTQ rights. He said understanding that is key to understanding the depth of the coalition.

“BLM is so much more than a movement against police violence,” he said. “Black Lives Matter is not simply black history; Black Lives Matter is also women’s history, it’s also LGBTQ history.”

Roberts called on Ohio State students to find ways to stand up for justice in their own communities. He said solutions would often be complicated and hard work would be required.

Graduate student Caroline Bennett sang to open the evening’s ceremony and spoken-word artists Speak Williams and Tyiesha Radford Shorts performed.

A schedule of events for United Black World Month is posted on the Multicultural Center website