UW-Madison celebrates Black Activism during Black History Month 2015, Marc Lamont Hill to keynote

More than 30 events, discussions, displays, performances and lectures are planned in celebration of Black History Month 2015 on the UW-Madison campus, including a keynote Black History Month lecture by nationally-known professor, author and cultural critic Marc Lamont Hill.

This year’s theme for the campus-based observation is “A Celebration of Black Activism,” according to Black History Month lead organizer Karla Foster, drawn from reflection on the current social mood in America by a student planning committee.

The month’s activities range from first-person experience forums like “Sitting at the Feet of Our Elders: The Black Student Experience” featuring UW-Madison alumni scholar Cornelius Gilbert and lectures by Madison native Richard Harris on growing up Black in Madison, to workshops led by student leaders on how to engage in current discussions while remaining spiritually healthy and academically productive. A comprehensive list of events and happenings is linked below.

Marc_Lamont_Hill 2 Professor, author and cultural critic Marc Lamont Hill will give the keynote Distinguished Lecture of the month on Thursday, Feb. 19, at 7 p.m. in the Symphony Room of Gordon Commons, 770 W. Dayton St. “Building Community in an Hour of Chaos: Progress in the Age of Obama” will be a critical analysis of the current social and political moment. By identifying key issues, challenges, controversies and trends that have emerged or lingered during the “Obama era,” Hill spotlights the work that must be done to sustain the progress of the Freedom Struggle. Moving beyond mere critique, he also provides concrete solutions, hope and the possibility for healing our national, local and university communities. The event is free and open to the public.

“The Black History Month theme definitely stemmed from a lot of the chaos and controversy that is going on around the United States right now with the killing of unarmed black and brown men and women,” Foster said. The events include a broad range of campus  and community groups that are discussing contemporary issues in both the historic and forward-looking contexts. While grass-roots activism around the country is still formulating around difficult topics, the celebration piece recognizes that the nation is not as far from the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s as we may have thought we were, she said. As a result, it’s important to review Civil Rights history.

“It’s going to be very informative if you’ve been paying attention to what’s going on in the news and the people who have been on the ground in Ferguson, or who’ve been on the ground in Staten Island. Our keynote speaker Marc Lamont Hill was on the ground initially when the Mike Brown shooting occurred, and when the non-indictment was passed he was standing right in front of the jail with Mike Brown’s mother, so he’s definitely in tune with what’s going on.”

Marc Lamont Hill, 36, is one of the leading intellectual voices in the country. He is the host of HuffPost Live and BET News, as well as a political contributor for CNN. He is the former host of the nationally-syndicated television show Our World With Black Enterprise and political contributor to Fox News Channel. An award-winning journalist, Hill has received numerous prestigious awards from the National Association of Black Journalists, GLAAD, and the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences. Hill is a Distinguished Professor of African American Studies at Morehouse College. Prior to that, he held positions at Columbia University and Temple University.

Since his days as a youth in Philadelphia, Hill has been a social justice activist and organizer. He is a founding board member of My5th, a non-profit organization devoted to educating youth about their legal rights and responsibilities. He is also a board member and organizer of the Philadelphia Student Union. Hill also works closely with the ACLU Drug Reform Project, focusing on drug informant policy. Over the past few years, he has actively worked on campaigns to end the death penalty and to release numerous political prisoners. In 2011, Ebony Magazine named him one of America’s 100 most influential Black leaders.

Hill is the author of three books: the award-winning Beats, Rhymes, and Classroom Life: Hip-Hop Pedagogy and the Politics of Identity; The Classroom and the Cell: Conversations on Black life in America; and The Barbershop Notebooks: Reflections on Culture, Politics, and Education. He has also published three edited books: Media, Learning, and Sites of Possibility; Schooling Hip-Hop: New Directions in Hip-Hop Based Education; and The Anthropology of Education Reader. He is currently completing two manuscripts: 10 Right Wing Myths About Education; and Written By Himself: Race, Masculinity, and the Politics of Literacy.

Trained as an anthropologist of education, Hill holds a Ph.D. (with distinction) from the University of Pennsylvania. His research focuses on the intersections between culture, politics, and education.

“We’re excited to have someone of his distinguished caliber right here on our campus,” Foster said. “We’re hoping that students are going to want to step outside of their comfort zone and everyone in the community – you don’t have to be African-American – will come. The celebration of Black History Month and Black history in general on this campus is very important, especially for our students of color.”

For African and African American students at a predominantly white institution who are from a variety of backgrounds, there is a variance in how thorough and accurate their educational knowledge of their own history may be, Foster said. Added to those inequities in knowledge is what’s portrayed in the media through reality television and other narrow depictions of people of color, she said. “If we’re successful and we’re black, we’re portrayed as either athletes or entertainers.”

“We also need to educate our white counterparts who are here that have also grown up in communities where there is a possibility they never discussed or learned about black history in their classrooms. It’s very intentional that our Black History Month plan is about teaching on one hand and celebration on the other hand.”

And although February is named Black History Month, all of the programming and events are relevant for non-minority students, Foster emphasized.

Black History Month Events Schedule