FSU to host black lives matter teach in

A teach in responding to the Black Lives Matter Movement will be held Feb. 22-26, culminating in a town hall meeting, during which members of the extended FSU community can share their thoughts and experiences.

The teach in was started by sociology professors Virginia Rutter, Lina Rincon and Xavier Guadalupe-Diaz. In all, 76 professors agreed to examine various elements of the African-American experience in their classes, according to Rutter.

She said she created this teach in because not only is Black Lives Matter a major national movement, but the Center for Inclusive Excellence has also organized events related to race-based violence during the past year.

These professors are not stopping what they are teaching, but are bringing this topic into their classes, according to Rutter.

Rutter said 135 classes from 20 disciplines will be part of the teach in.

Rutter said although this model began at FSU, it has since spread to four other state universities – Bridgewater State University, Salem State University, Massachusetts College of Art and Design and Westfield State University.

According to Rutter, the teach in will transform the entire campus into a classroom.

Guadalupe-Diaz said he and a number of his colleagues first discussed their idea for this Black Lives Matter teach in last November.

He said he posted the idea on social media, and three colleges outside of New England expressed interest in developing a similar program.

He added, “The speed of the interest was surprising.”

Guadalupe-Diaz said universities are spaces for “open inquiry,” where people can challenge perspectives and existing power structures.

In terms of the national Black Lives Matter movement, he said he believes the most important issue to address is “systemic racial biases in the criminal justice system.”

Guadalupe-Diaz said he hopes the teach in sparks interest in this movement, and that people will take action, such as writing legislators, “galvanizing communities” and being socially and politically active. 

In an email inviting faculty to participate in this event, Guadalupe-Diaz, Rincon and Rutter said a number of professors will utilize elements of the black lives matter movement in their classes.

Biochemistry Professor Ishara Mills-Henry will “discuss the famous HeLa cells and the Tuskegee experiments.”

The HeLa cells are the immortal cells of Henrietta Lacks, a tobacco farmer from southern Virgina whose cells helped create the polio vaccine, according to a January 22, 2010 article in Smithsonian Magazine.

The Tuskegee experiments began in 1932. At this time, the U.S. Public Health Service launched an unethical study of African-Americans (some with and some without syphilis). 

In his screenwriting class, Communication Arts Professor Robert Johnson will examine the racist elements of the 1915 silent film “Birth of a Nation.”

English Professor Elaine Beilin will be exploring themes of the Black Lives Matter Movement in various plays by William Shakespeare.

The Black Lives Matter Movement began in response to the death of 17-year old Trayvon Martin. Following the acquittal of George Zimmerman, there was “a call to action and a response to the virulent anti-Black racism that permeates our society,” according to the black lives matter website.

Guadalupe-Diaz said he hopes the teach in sparks interest in this movement, and that people will take action, such as writing legislators, “galvanizing communities” and being socially and politically active.

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