Mar 13, 2018 | Atlanta, GA
Activists will recognize the familiar protest chant: What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!
According to Georgia Tech’s Fifth Annual Black History Month Lecture Keynote Speaker Angela Rye, this is the wrong ask.
“In Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘Where Do We Go from Here?’ speech, he discussed power, and he defined power as the ability to achieve purpose,” said Rye. “When you can’t achieve your purpose, does it matter if you are dealt with fairly?”
“If you’re released from a form of bondage, and you’re not equipped to fully engage in society in a meaningful way, your justice means nothing. Society can treat you fairly, but if you don’t have the tools to achieve your purpose, or power, you’re going to fail. Black activists have been asking for justice and equality, but what we need is equity and power.”
The theme of this year’s Black History Month Lecture was “Giving Voice to Justice for 50 Years.” “The theme was selected to mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. King and the founding of AASU at Georgia Tech,” explained Leah Miller, president of the African American Student Union (AASU) and undergraduate student in the Ernest Scheller Jr. College of Business. “Moreover, 2018 is seeing a continuation of the #MeToo movement in the ongoing struggle for gender equity.”
Rye, a national political strategist and commentator, discussed the recent controversies surrounding pervasive sexual harassment, the unmasking of male privilege, and the impact of the #MeToo movement through the lens of Black History Month. As a central narrative, Rye repeatedly referenced “Ain’t I a Woman?,” a powerful speech delivered by Sojourner Truth at the Women’s Rights Convention in 1851.
“I wonder what Sojourner would say today given our current discord and state of the struggle. Not just for women’s rights but for black women’s rights,” reflected Rye. “When I think of the many black women throughout history who have blazed trails, opened doors, persisted, and resisted, I pull from their strength. I get to stand on their shoulders. And ain’t I a woman?”
In addition to #MeToo, Rye talked about the #StayWoke movement. “We can’t afford to talk about ‘Stay Woke’ anymore; we have to ‘Work Woke.’ We have to use our gifts to truly change our path forward. Black History Month is about honoring the legacy of people who blazed trails for us. They were working woke.”
Institute Diversity Vice President Archie Ervin concluded the lecture by stating that he was inspired by the references to “Ain’t I a Woman.” “Today’s lecture was an uplifting experience, and at Georgia Tech, we are honored to continue the conversation on April 5 by unveiling a sculpture of Rosa Parks in one of our most cherished locations, Harrison Square.”
To view the Black History Month Lecture in its entirety, visit https://youtu.be/n_W4WzIx9dw.
Georgia Tech’s Black History Month Lecture was sponsored by Institute Diversity and AASU. To learn more, visit www.diversity.gatech.edu/2018-black-history-month-lecture.