Presentation on Black Lives Matter movement draws crowd of Princeton students

Keona Kalu | Contributing Reporter

A Washington University professor spoke about the Black Lives Matter movement and the media depiction of the black community as part of the City Seminar colloquium, an annual event designed to discuss urbanization and urban issues.

Garrett Duncan, associate professor of education and African and African-American studies, led a presentation titled “At the Risk of Seeming Ridiculous: Recasting ‘Black Lives Matter’ in the Contemporary Popular Imagination” in which he framed the Black Lives Matter movement and the representation of black people in the contexts of love and time.

Most of the students who attended the discussion were Princeton University students who were using their fall break as a time to learn about the community in and around the St. Louis area.

Sophomore Princeton student Melissa Rosenberg said they visited other professors and listened to talks like Duncan’s in order to understand the academic perspective of the racial movement.

“The BLM [Black Lives Matter] movement is an extension of something that has been happening for a very long time,” Rosenberg said. “I’m learning about things that have been happening in the past year about race and social justice movements…It was interesting to put this [subject] in the framework of love when I think we normally think about this in regards to policies.”

Duncan said that he first combined the concepts of love, time and race after the death of Michael Brown in 2014. He said looking at time as it relates to the BLM movement provides a different way of framing things.

“In the news, black men are shown as thugs or gorillas—less developed in time…Little black girls are characterized as overdeveloped in time—doing adult things even though they are girls,” Duncan said.

This kind of thinking is a large part of the misrepresentation of the black community that Duncan wants to clarify with his work, he said, adding that he wants to show black youth in and on their own terms.

Duncan added that the next step in making the media’s imagery of black people more realistic is to follow the young people.

He also explained ethnographic research he’s conducted in area schools. His presentation included video clips of his research with his students in an urban fifth grade classroom.

“Students are at the center of my work. The piece I’m destined for centers on the life of black boys and how they are being systematically kicked out [of school] even with no behavior issues,” Duncan said. “I want to highlight these students, especially the black boys, doing work. We rarely see images like this.”

Ultimately, Duncan’s goal for the seminar was for attendees to leave having gained a new perspective on the subject that will inform decisions in the future.

“We have to be engaged; we have to be present,” Duncan said. “I don’t want to tell you what to think. I just present the information that is available and you can interpret it the way you will. I want to start a conversation.”

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