Oct. 19, 2015

Black Lives Matter teach-in aims to inspire, inform

Local activists and residents will speak about the forms of violence and insecurity faced by people of color in Ithaca at a public teach-in, “Black Lives Matter: A Community Conversation on Surviving and Thriving,” Saturday, Oct. 24, from 2 to 4:30 p.m. at Beverly J. Martin Elementary School, 320 W. Buffalo St., Ithaca.

The teach-in will be preceded by a solidarity march from the Bernie Milton Pavilion at Seneca and Tioga streets to the school. Marchers will gather on the Ithaca Commons from 1 to 1:15 p.m.

The event aims to inform, inspire and mobilize people to combat racism and racially motivated violence, and generate a sense of solidarity that can lead to future activism for social change. A coalition of Ithaca activists, residents, educators and students that came together this year is inviting “all people of conscience” to participate, and to share strategies and resources for anti-racist struggle.

The organizers hope to raise awareness about local racial inequality and about Black Lives Matter, “a national and in some respects international movement that people don’t know a lot about, beyond name recognition,” said Russell Rickford, assistant professor of history in the College of Arts and Sciences. “More importantly, we want to generate some excitement and harness some of the energy of this movement and channel it locally.”

Groups represented at the teach-in will include Black Students United at Cornell, the Social Justice Council at First Unitarian Society of Ithaca and the Ithaca branch of the national network Showing Up for Racial Justice.

”We want to connect with organizers and groups in the community who have been doing this and similar types of work for some time – and serve as a basis and resource for collaboration going forward,” Rickford said. “Ultimately, many of us hope it can be a way to at least start or restart a conversation about building a national anti-racist movement in Ithaca and beyond. That’s a long-term goal.”

The Black Lives Matter movement began in 2013 to protest police brutality against people of color and other forms of racial violence across the United States.

“By its mere existence, the Black Lives Matter movement represents a call for rethinking and reforming the societal role of law enforcement,” said Gerard Aching, director of the Africana Studies and Research Center, one of the teach-in’s formal sponsors. “It’s a movement that has emerged within one of the very best democratic traditions that characterize our country, which is the citizen’s right to protest injustice – in this case, the widespread failure to stop unarmed black men and women from being killed.”