Yesterday, more than 70 students, faculty and community members gathered on Zoom for the African American department’s colloquium series.
Every year, Yale’s AFAM department hosts a speaker series known as the Endeavors Colloquium. This year’s theme is “Black Now: Conversations for the Revolution” and is co-sponsored by the Yale Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity and Transnational Migration. The series kicked off Thursday around noon with LaTosha Brown, a grassroots organizer and Harvard Institute of Politics fellow. Her nonprofit organization, Black Voters Matter, focuses on increasing voter registration and advocating for voters rights in Black communities across the country.
“We’ve got to shift the narrative from voting being about participating to voting being about power,” Brown told listeners during the event.
Brown spoke on the topic of “Voters Rights and Suppression” by using her years of experience as an organizer and political strategist. She tackled the topic by giving personal anecdotes, practical organizing advice and even broke out in song at the beginning of the conversation.
This event comes on the heels of Tuesday’s presidential debate between Democratic candidate Joe Biden and incumbent Republican President Donald Trump. The presidential debate –– and the candidates’ comments about white supremacy –– was a recurring theme of the event.
Yale associate professor of anthropology and African American studies Aimee Cox, who moderated the event, fielded participant questions and posted notes for the audience to follow as the conversation progressed. In an interview with the News, Cox said that Brown’s speech was “moving” and “embodied reinvigoration.”
Cox said she was in awe that Brown delivered the lecture from a bus traveling through North Carolina as part of her BVM Bus Tour. The tour stops in various Southern states to rally Black voters and encourage them to hit the polls.
“I think what’s exciting about the Zoom format is that we couldn’t have fit 80 people in the seminar room where we usually host Endeavors,” AFAM department chair Jacqueline Goldsby told the News. “I’m really glad that by partnering with RITM… we can post these discussions [on Youtube] for the general public and the University community to watch.”
Goldsby said she was heartened to see professors from different departments and community members outside of the University present at Thursday’s event. She said that online platforms like Zoom lowered the barriers of participation for people tuning in from varying communities, and that this format could increase the AFAM department’s outreach capacity.
Brown’s lecture — and all subsequent lectures in the speaker series — will be posted on Yale’s Youtube channel for the public.
“[The speaker series] is so urgent and critical for understanding what’s happening in the United States today, and for thinking about how all of us must rise together to meet this moment,” RITM Center director Stephen Pitti said in an email statement to the News.
Both Cox and Goldsby spoke about the importance of Brown’s lecture and the entire speaker series in light of current events, including the upcoming presidential election. They discussed how Black and brown communities are being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and policing in America.
Cox and Goldsby developed the speaker series with these broader issues in mind, and future event topics include health, justice and policing.
Associate AFAM Professor Crystal Feimster, working alongside Cox and Goldsby, curated the speaker series.
“I hope [the speaker series] is a call for people to act and to act in ways that make this world more democratic and just,” Feimster said.
In choosing Brown as the first speaker, Feimster said she knew Brown would bring an “energy” Yale students are looking for as they mobilize on Yale’s campus and at home in their local communities.
A Yale student present during the lecture, Abey Philip ’22, echoed Feimster’s sentiments. Phillip said that he gained crucial information from the event on how to support communities both at Yale and in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.
“People who go to Yale are going to be the leaders in every single field you can probably imagine, from philanthropy to political activism,” Philip said. “It’s important for these conversations to be had about how we can support our shared communities… and the voices that are already there.”
The next event in the Endeavors Colloquium series is on Oct. 22 and will host Emily Wang from the Center for Health and Justice.
Zaporah Price | firstname.lastname@example.org