By Katie Peters – Arts Editor
On Feb. 20, in Rosen Auditorium, the Donahue Institute for Ethics, Diversity and Inclusion hosted a presentation titled “From Trayvon to 2020 and Beyond.” This hour-long talk brought guests through the history of the Movement for Black Lives from when Trayvon Martin’s murder in 2012 to today.
As the clinical assistant professor and Charles River Campus advisor at Boston University’s School of Social Work, Dr. Copeland specializes in areas such as theories of racial justice, the Black Lives Matter movement, the abolition of mass incarceration, and adult behavioral health. Dr. Copeland started his presentation by wishing the audience members a “happy Black Futures Month,” while acknowledging the indigenous people whose land the Auburndale area now occupies: the Wampanoag, the Nipmuc and the Massachusett.
The “committed core” of the Movement for Black Lives consists of more than 50 individual organizations advocating for racial equality, including Black Lives Matter. Many of these bigger youth-lead organizations in the committed core were founded after the killing of Trayvon Martin or soon after the acquittal of George Zimmerman.
One theme that persisted throughout the presentation is how similar things keep happening to people of color despite all the social justice movements that have taken place in the half last century. “If we are not vigilant, history will repeat itself,” says Copeland. “However, we have the power to change course and in some ways, the last couple of centuries have been missed opportunities to do that.”
After watching a short documentary about the unorganized justice system in St. Louis, Missouri, Copeland told the audience the reason why the late Michael Brown was stopped and shot soon after by St. Louis police was that Brown had been jaywalking. Copeland asked audience members to look at the big picture, which was that Brown “lived and died in a community where people were being targeted for cash.”
“If the cop told him to get out of the street, he has to get out of the street. You gotta get the facts out there,” said one older man in the crowd during a small pause in Copeland’s speech. “He had no respect for the police officer…we can’t fudge the facts…he was killed because he attacked the cop,” he continued.
“So, this is an individual who chooses to ignore the context and focus on the facts that are convenient for him,” said Copeland in rebuttal after trying to reason with this individual. “That’s why we have to have this conversation because most people don’t know what I just shared with you and some of them don’t care. I have a problem with that, I will not stand for that.”
Audience members supported Copeland in his defense by clapping and cheering after this exchange. This is an argument Copeland is all too familiar with. “Basically, [the argument] that people like Trayvon Martin got what they deserved…honestly, that has been the excuse for racism for over 400 years,” says Copeland.
Copeland finished his presentation by asking the audience to think about the future and asked them to discuss among themselves what type of future they, personally, were fighting for. A question and answer session was held after, with the help of Jesse Tauriac, Assistant Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, so audience members could ask questions and share their opinions.