Justan Parker, founder of Black Lives Matter, Lehigh Valley and executive director of Change Now! Lehigh Valley, shared his story of leading a movement for racial justice with the Penn State Lehigh Valley campus community.
Parker discussed the importance of protests and the visibility of it, as well as other tactics such as voting, especially in local elections, and staying involved by attending city council meetings.
“Activism looks different for different people. If you don’t feel like your kids’ school is doing the right thing, show up at the school board meeting,” Parker said.
More than 130 students, faculty and staff attended the virtual event held Oct. 1. The event was student-centered and primarily student-run and was co-hosted by many PSU-LV campus organizations including the PSU-LV Learning Community on Racial Justice, Fall 2020, All In Working Group, Black Student Union, Penn State Lehigh Valley Benefiting THON, Health Policy and Administration Club, Rehabilitation and Human Services Club, Health and Human Services Society, Communication Society, Lambda Pi Eta Communication Honors Society, Canvas Pride for Corporate Communication, the Business Society, the Psychology Club, the Honors Club, Student Government Association and the Global Student Organization.
After Parker shared his personal story in how he founded Black Lives Matter, Lehigh Valley, the majority of the event was an open Q&A session where a diversity of viewpoints were shared and Parker responded with his thoughts.
“Having uncomfortable conversations around race, systemic racism and oppression will allow us to get to the root causes and address them,” Parker said.
Parker addressed the different arguments against the Black Lives Matter movement and how some people respond with the saying All Lives Matter.
“All lives do matter, but all lives can’t matter until the Black ones do,” Parker said. “Our constitution was not written with Black and Brown people in mind. That’s the reality… and we need allies to use their privilege to help us.”
“Justan’s presentation allowed students to look beyond their realm of experience to place themselves in the shoes of others,” said Megan O’Donnell, a junior majoring in corporate communication, who is president of the communication society. “His speech was important since it taught inclusivity and helped us all realize in our core we are one and we must work together to bring equality to all.”
The event was supported by the Student Activity Fee (SAF). The Learning Community for Racial Justice has brought several classes together from different disciplines at PSU-LV to historically examine issues of racial inequality with a focus on James Baldwin's work and his relevance to contemporary understandings.