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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


‘Black Life’ activists to speak this weekend


Courtesy of Lourdes Hunter.

Lourdes Hunter will be a keynote speaker at the Black Life Matters conference this weekend. Hunter has a bachelor’s degree in social theory, structure and change and a Master’s of Public Administration.

Throughout the weekend leading into Martin Luther King Jr. Day, community members are invited to attend the Black Life Matters Conference held at the UA.

Through keynote presentations, hands-on workshops, collaborative panels, arts and performance and community engagement, the conference will discuss why “Black Lives Matter” in today’s political environment. Community members who attend the conference will discuss this by focusing on six main themes: disparities, global “blackness,” the criminalizing of African-American communities, sexuality, violence against women and immigration.

“This conference is an attempt to fuse academic, community political efforts, local to national, to remember that black life matters,” said Monica J. Casper, head of the department of gender and women’s studies, to UANews.

April Petillo, an American Indian studies graduate student, member of the Black Life Matters Conference planning committee and the community facilitator and a graduate assistant for African American Student Affairs, spoke on the importance of the conference to the UA and Southern Arizona.

“We would be ignoring the reality if we were to assume that Tucson is different,” Petillo said.

He said that the conference is an opportunity for university students to take what is taught in classes and use it to support Tucson’s local community and the national community as a whole.

Adam Geary, associate professor in gender and women’s studies and a member of the Black Life Matters Conference programming committee, said he is most excited for the conferences’ “all star cast of leading activists.” Among these activists are the keynote speakers: Kenyon Farrow, Lourdes Ashley Hunter, Tamura A. Lomax and Imani Perry. There will be over 40 other speakers participating in the conference.

Artists and performers will also be in attendance, expressing how “Black Lives Matter” through dance, music, spoken word and film to over 600 attendees. Petillo said that these are prime examples of how many forms of activism there are that she hopes will be shared.

“We want everyone to bring their own form of activism to the conversation,” Petillo said.

Geary said attendees of the conference should come ready to participate so that they might bring new ideas with them to the conference to think about the “next steps in the struggle around racial justice.”

“There’s a hope from the planning committee that there won’t entirely be panelists speaking and the audience listens,” Geary said.

Geary points out that the whole day on Saturday is dedicated to creative and collaborative work, where attendees can work alongside the panelists. However, both Geary and the rest of the programming committee hope that attendees take new ideas away from the conference.

The conference’s website says the hope is that the conference will spark an ongoing conversation about black lives and give people tools and resources to take the conversations into their own communities. Other planned outcomes include a “series of thematic policy papers” and action items and next steps for local, regional and national policies.

The conference is cosponsored by the department of gender and women’s studies, The Feminist Wire, Lehigh University, the Human Rights Campaign and 30 other units across the UA.

The conference is free and open to the public, and while registration is available online, it is not necessary to register in order to attend the conference. A live stream of the conference will be available for viewing on its website,

Today and Friday, the conference will be held in the South Ballroom of the Student Union Memorial Center. On Saturday, it will be held at the Dunbar Cultural Center at 325 W. Second St.


Follow Christianna Silva on Twitter.

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