Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

#BlackLivesMatter Becoming Vital Part of Dialogue on Campuses

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

#BlackLivesMatter Becoming Vital Part of Dialogue on Campuses

Article excerpt

As students of color continue to find ways to process the events that have unfolded recently across the country, faculty and staff are also working to find ways to help students with this process--and cope themselves.

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From changing curricula, to even a new textbook titled Black Lives Matter, to finding its place in protests with the students, the #BlackLivesMatter movement is eking its way into not just higher ed but K-12 discussions as well.

Macalester College professor of American studies Duchess Harris said that, at the beginning of the fall 2014 semester, she found herself incorporating news clippings and materials about Mike Brown and some of the others slain by police around the country.

Because the semester started just a few weeks after the events in Ferguson, Missouri, burst into the nations consciousness, Harris said she knew that her students would be looking for an outlet to discuss those things and would be looking to make historical connections.

"A lot of people want to talk about it; it's just a lot of people don't know how to talk about it and a lot of people don't have the tools to talk about it," she said.

So when she was approached by Abdo Press to help author a textbook to provide such a tool, Harris said she was happy to do so.

The book, which covers a three-year history from Trayvon Martin to Freddie Gray, is primarily geared toward sixth-grade to 12th-grade students, though Harris said she believes "this is a useful tool for many age groups, and I think it's an important way to open up dialogue."

For some institutions at the heart of the conflicts, controlling the dialogue became crucial.

"We were impacted significantly, from the standpoint of the images that were being shown," said Morgan State University President David Wilson, whose Baltimore campus was thought by some parents to be at the center of the protests unfolding in the wake of Freddie Gray's death in police custody.

"We had to immediately communicate with our university community about what was happening" because many families were not getting accurate information about the extent of the threat in the city.

Many students who were enrolled at the time, said Wilson, were "very concerned about what they perceived about the senseless killings."

So, "in the great tradition of Morgan," they organized "peaceful protests" and clean-up efforts, said Wilson, who joined in some of the work. …

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