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Nov 15 2016
by Joyce Lee

IDSEM-UG 1849: Black Lives Matter

By Joyce Lee - Nov 15 2016
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NYU Professor Frank Leon Roberts made waves last fall after launching a course on the Black Lives Matter movement, recently adapted to "Black Lives Matter: Race, Media, and Popular Protest," in the Gallatin School of Individualized Study.

Designed as a 30-person seminar, the class is centered around the ongoing discussion of how the Black Lives Matter movement is originally framed by its primary organizers, the historical context of the movement, and its platform and the movement of social justice towards “trendiness.”

“This class was designed as an intervention because there's a tremendous amount of misinformation in terms of the public perception of Black Lives Matter,” Professor Roberts said in an interview with Fader Magazine. “As we approach the end of the nation's first black presidency, our timelines are inundated daily with conversations about racial strife and racial injustice in America, and people are looking for resources.”

Roberts, a community organizer and political activist, is an alumnus of New York University and is well-known for his involvement in the #BlackLivesMatter movement and his commentary on race and gender in modern American society.

The syllabus of his class, as well as a few recordings of the seminar's discussions, are posted online as an accessible resource for anybody wanting to familiarize themselves with the movement. Particularly in this time of post-election conflict, dialogue like what Roberts facilitates is sorely needed in a divided nation: to think critically about present-day movements and their effects.

“Last time I taught [this class] last Fall, people would tell me about the Thanksgiving conversations that they were having. They would come home at Thanksgiving and mom and dad had one perspective about Black Lives Matter and they were able to bring in all that they had learned to that point in the classroom and facilitate a dialogue with their family,” Roberts said.

The Black Lives Matter movement finds its beginnings in the Trayvon Martin case, when George Zimmerman shot Martin allegedly due to racial profiling. The movement also popularized the use of social media as a form of amassing support and protest — and ultimately, using hashtags as a memorial for the lives lost to police brutality.

“I think the legacy of Black Lives Matter is that it will have contributed significantly to the development of American democracy. It’s helping America be its best self by pointing to all the places where America currently is not its best self,” Roberts said. “[And that] everyday people can change a nation and can change the political and cultural climate of a country.”

Currently, the class is only offered in the Fall with department consent from Gallatin. Roberts plans to make the course “fully public in Spring 2017” in order to further increase accessibility to people who cannot afford NYU's tuition (as well as anyone who may be interested in learning more about the movement and its effects on society), but wish to learn more and contribute to the conversation about race and social movement in a contemporary context.


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Joyce Lee - New York University

Joyce Lee is a freshman at NYU, majoring in Media, Culture, and Communications. You can find her writing mediocre poetry or exploring New York's thriving food scene in her free time.

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