During fall semester 2016, a “Black in Chico” rally on campus and the Black Student Union’s candlelight vigil highlighted incidents of police brutality and officer-involved homicides within African American communities in the United States. During two full days in October, faculty and students from various academic disciplines on campus held a “teach in.” Organizers described this event as “a series of practical, participatory, action-oriented lectures, presentations or discussions aimed at raising awareness” of this social/political issue. Below is a sampling of these sessions.

Black Lives Matter Teach-In: Let’s Keep the Conversation Going

A History of Civil Rights & Black Power Activism at Chico State, 1964-1970

Rod Thomson
Graduate Student, History Department, CSU, Chico

Decorative: Image from slideshow presentationAs Rod Thomson illustrates, during much of the 1960s Chico State had a very small black student population but was a surprisingly active campus in that era’s social movements toward civil rights and black power. He begins with an overview of how various minority groups fared in the Chico area from the mid-19th century to 1964. Thomson then shows how Chico students – inspired by protests at other California universities and by Chico residents who traveled to the Deep South to work for African Americans’ voting rights – began to organize around social issues. One of the highlights of the era was when Harry Edwards, a well-known sociology professor from San Jose State, gave a talk on campus about black power that was attended by 2,000 students – over 25% of the student body at that time. Presentation Time: 49 minutes | View Now

The Intersections of Race & Religion: Black Lives Matter as a modern religious movement?

Rev. Robert Morton
Student Conduct Coordinator of Student Judicial Affairs, CSU, Chico

Decorative: Image from slideshow presentationRev. Robert Morton proposes that Black Lives Matter is a modern religious movement. He also notes that many of the issues in the church are the same as in society as a whole. As background, Rev. Morton provides information about the origins of the black church in America. At first, he says, Christianity was forced on black slaves to brainwash them and take away their power. But then black people created something different – a Christianity that worked for them, with Jesus as liberator. However, there have been elements in the black church that felt, for example, that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was too outspoken and pushing too hard for justice. Today, some churches still struggle with the Black Lives Matter movement rather than embrace it. Rev. Morton engages the audience in discussion of questions such as “Is the Gospel oppressive or liberating?” and “Is Christianity healthy for black people?” Presentation time: 29 minutes | View Now

Language & Social Movements

Dr. Sara Trechter & Dr. Saundra Wright
Faculty, English Department, CSU, Chico

Image: All lives matter-Decorative onlyTwo CSU, Chico linguists explain how the use of language can define and influence movements for social justice. Dr. Trechter uses as an example the efforts of multiple Native American tribes to block a major oil pipeline project in North Dakota. She says the people involved are clearly defining themselves as “protectors,” not protestors. She believes the words they are using underscores the power of their efforts and creates an identity of being protectors of the land. Dr. Wright explains how the meaning of language is built on semantics and pragmatics. She focuses on the history of the phrase, “Black Lives Matter,” and how there came to be two interpretations of the phrase – “Only black lives matter” and “Black lives matter, too.” Presentation time: 25 minutes | View Now

Sangre, Sudor Y Lagrimas: Undocumented Migrant Workers & the Claims of Justice

Susanna Boxall
Faculty, Philosophy Department and Comparative Religion & Humanities Department, CSU, Chico

Decorative: Image from slideshow presentationSusanna Boxall points out that undocumented migrant farm workers in the United States, most of them from Mexico, contributed $13 billion dollars in payroll taxes in 2013. Yet these workers face discrimination and many challenges. The problems begin with the militarized border between the US and Mexico. Farm work itself is the second most dangerous job in the nation. There are health risks, primarily due to the physical nature of the work and exposure to pesticides, including increased levels of diabetes, musculoskeletal problems, tuberculosis, and cancer. Although their labor is essential to food production, the workers do not enjoy the benefits of other workers, including unemployment insurance, disability benefits, and food stamps, among others. Ms. Boxall concludes by stating these workers are economic refugees of US free-trade policies and, therefore, especially deserve equal treatment and justice. Presentation time: 50 minutes | View Now

Hip-hop as a Global Language of Resistance

Una Isun
Multilingual Mexican Hip-hop Artist
DJ Survive
Hip-hop DJ from Los Angeles

Decorative: Image from slideshow presentationUsa Isu is from a farmworker family in the Mixtec ethnic group of Mexico. He grew up speaking Mixtec and later learned English and Spanish. He heard American rappers, but couldn’t identify with them. Then Chicano rappers caught Isu’s attention, which led him to experiment with tri-lingual rap (English, Spanish, Mixtec). It was well-received. He says rap fits into his ethnic tradition of story-telling, and when he visits his hometown even the elders ask him to rap for them.

DJ Survive grew up in Los Angles, listening to indigenous music from his Mexican Zapotec community. He was bullied for speaking Zapotec and eventually joined the gang-dominated street life. When he was 11 or 12, he went to a party that featured a hip-hop DJ. From then on, he was focused on Hip-hop, creating his own mixes and tapes. He likes to use songs that have strong messages about such issues as immigration and the survival of black and brown people. He still enjoys Zapotec music and dance. Presentation time: 49 minutes | View Now

Transvisibility & Black Lives Matter: Intersecting at the Margins

Seve Christian
CSU, Chico Student & Trans Program Coordinator, Gender & Sexuality Equity Center
Connor Wenzel
Trans Group Facilitator, Stonewall Alliance of Chico

Decorative: Image from slideshow presentationThe presenters discuss how the Transvisibility and Black Lives Matter movements overlap. They start with a brief explanation of gender terminology, including definitions of “trans.” They then discuss some of the issues and concerns of the black trans community: discrimination and bias in housing, employment, and healthcare; intersectionality and privilege; physical safety; mental health; and micro-aggressions. Safety especially is a concern, as statistics show that violence against trans black people is widespread. The presenters also talk about the important role of non-trans allies who are well-educated about trans issues and will speak out when they see discrimination against trans people. Presentation Time: 29 minutes | View Now

Reading from Alison Kinney's Book, "Hood," on Police Violence

Dr. Asa Mittman
Faculty, Art & Art History Department, CSU, Chico

Decorative: Image from slideshow presentationOn author Alison Kinney’s web page, this is how her book, “Hood,” is described: “We all wear hoods – the Grim Reaper, Red Riding Hood, torturers, executioners and the executed, athletes, laborers, anarchists, rappers, babies in onesies, and anyone who’s ever grabbed a hoodie on a chilly day…'Hood' explores the material and symbolic vibrancy of this everyday garment and political semaphore.” In the case of the 2012 murder of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, the hoodie he was wearing became a powerful symbol when his assailant gave it as a reason he shot Martin. In this recording, selections from the book are read by Dr. Asa Mittman, CSU, Chico faculty. Presentation Time: 22 minutes | View Now