On Thursday, Sept. 17, the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life will hold its first “Right Now!” panel of the year. Titled “After Charleston: Next Steps in a movement of Social Justice,” the event will take place in Memorial Chapel directly following President Roth’s State of the School Address. The event is not ticketed, and the audience will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Allbritton Center’s “Right Now!” panels gather experts and those with firsthand experience to discuss pressing issues in response to recent events. Allbritton Director and John E. Andrus Professor of Sociology Rob Rosenthal organized this panel following a summer of unrest, most prominently the mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., as well as the growing strength of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“It seemed, with the events of Charleston and Ferguson and Black Lives Matter…important, [for] how visible the issue is,” he said. “The issue is always important, but right now it’s much more visible. People are talking about it, and we wanted to provide a venue. This is what the ‘Right Now!’ series does. When we get an idea, I go out and I look for people who I think would be important here or elsewhere.”
For this panel, Rosenthal looked to the local community, contacting Bishop John Selders, a prominent activist and Ordaining Pastor of the United Amistad Church of Christ in Hartford, among a variety of other leadership positions. Bree Newsome, credited with taking down the Confederate flag at the Columbia, S.C. statehouse, will also be present on the panel. Rounding out the group is Assistant Professor of African American Studies Clemmie L. Harris and student Tedra James ’18.
According to Rosenthal, the panel members will discuss their experiences in activism as well as address the overarching question: What’s next?
“We have this horrible thing happen in Charleston, but also a very interesting reaction: the flag coming down, and the flag being voted out of the capital,” Rosenthal said. “You have problems going on in Ferguson, you have problems all over the country, but you also have [the] building, vibrant movements of Black Lives Matter and also other groups coming together. What should a movement like that do, where should it go?”
The panel seeks to engage the audience while continuing the discourse in order to address these perennial concerns.
“There are experts [on the movements], but there are no authorities,” Rosenthal said. “It’s a movement that will decide where it’s going. So, that’s the idea, to provide a forum for people to talk about these things. And to kick it off, with some people who are prominent, either locally or nationally, in those struggles.”