While some Los Medanos College students were spending their Valentine’s Day doing romantic activities, going on dates or cuddling their loved ones, a small group of LMC community members were in Library Room L-109 being educated about the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Fall in Love with Social Justice: A Black Lives Matter Panel” was co-sponsored by Honors and the newly enacted CAWS club and led by CAWS President Marcel Clark. Among the panelists were LMC Instructor Michael Yeong, Civil Rights Lawyer Dan Siegel and activist Ndidi Okwelogu.
One of the first questions asked had to do with how one would go about helping someone who was being attacked. Yeong intercepted the question telling an anecdote about a recent trip to Starbucks in which a white man told him “You had your president, we have ours.”
Instead of engaging in a discussion with the man, he paid for the man’s coffee, advocating the “kill ‘em with kindeness” route.
The next question dealt with the more subtle ways in which black people are oppressed. Okwelogu talked about colorism and how self-hate is instilled in African-Americans from a young age.
Speaking from the perspective of a self-proclaimed queer black woman she added that she was appreciative of BLM because of its inclusivity. She described the organization as a “non-cisgendered, non-patriarchal, non-heteronormative movement.” She said non-black people might have a hard time grasping these concepts because, “If you aren’t living it, you don’t know what it’s like.”
During the discussion both Siegal and Yeong got the chance to explain how they “fell in love” with social justice. Siegal told a story about the time he was roughed up by members of the Klu Klux Klan.
As a Jewish man, he has faced discrimination but his father told him though he was going to struggle, they didn’t have it nearly as bad as the black people he grew up around. He initially wanted to be a journalist, but thought he could do more by being a lawyer.
Yeong also had a negative experience spark his interest in social justice. In fall 1989, the Stuart family murders took place in Boston. Charles Stuart, a white male murdered his wife and unborn child and blamed it on a black male. One night, Yeong was on a bus with about 21 other black men. “I was the black life that mattered that night. All of our lives — my life and the lives of every black man on the bus mattered that night.” They were pulled over and all of the men of color were questioned then carted off to jail.
Though the crowd was small, a slew of questions regarding both BLM and the black community in general, came up during the discussion. Throughout the panel, one of the things constantly being discussed was how to be a good ally.
“Don’t speak for or be the face of the movement,” advised Okwelogu.
At one point
When asked if the movement would be less controversial if the name of the organization were changed to “Black Live Matter Too,” Okwelogu responded saying that she doesn’t subscribe to respectability polices, explaining that people need to be able to accept, “If you cannot say ‘black lives matter,’ then I cannot roll with you.”
One of the last questions dealt with how draining it is for African-Americans to have to explain the various ways in which they face discrimination to people outside of the culture.
Okwelogu fielded this question. “You don’t have to educate people on your struggle —we’ve already taught society enough.” She then went on to explain it’s up to the representatives of the other ethnic or racial groups to explain to their communities why black lives matter.
She said at the end of the day, white people are going to go home “with their privilege and institutional wealth and you’ll go home with all your marginalization … life is hard enough, don’t take on educating white people.”
The panel ended with the showing of a TedTalks video conducted with the three founders of Black Lives Matter.
Clark thanked everyone for coming and expressed his gratitude for the humble but engaged audience.