Black History Month Lecture Covers the Criminal Justice System, #BlackLivesMatter, and College Student Activism
The popularity of the social media hashtag #BlackLivesMatter can be traced to 2012, when George Zimmerman was acquitted in the murder of Trayvon Martin. The impact of #BlackLivesMatter was felt again last fall, when higher education institutions received public demands from students about addressing culture and climate on college campuses and renewing dialogue on the ways society is falling short in its pledge of “liberty and justice for all.”
During Georgia Tech’s third annual Black History Month Lecture on February 11, presented by Institute Diversity and the African-American Student Union (AASU), Benjamin Crump, partner of Parks & Crump Law Firm, delivered a keynote speech on “The Criminal Justice System, #BlackLivesMatter, and College Student Activism Today.” Crump is known for his cases with civil rights implications.
“Diversity is a community value — a value that Georgia Tech has prioritized in its Strategic Plan. We were honored that Benjamin Crump spoke at this year’s Black History Month Lecture — as we are finding social justice through social media movements in the 21st century,” said Archie Ervin, vice president of Institute Diversity.
During Crump’s keynote address, one question was asked repeatedly: “Georgia Tech, where do you stand?”
He remarked, “Georgia Tech is one of the finest institutions in the world. How can you use your influence — your technical and entrepreneurial knowledge — to take a stand? We need to take a position because it is the right thing to do.”
Crump represented Trayvon Martin’s family at the start of the #BlackLivesMatter social movement as the case was catapulted into the national spotlight.
Even though Crump never had the chance to meet Trayvon, he recalled the sound of hopelessness from Trayvon’s father, Tracy Martin, after his son was shot. “My son was walking home from the 7-Eleven when the Neighborhood Watch volunteer shot and killed him, and they’re not going to arrest him. Travyon was unarmed, holding a bag of Skittles and an iced tea,” recounted Crump from Martin.
Under Florida’s Stand Your Ground statute, police were prohibited from arresting Zimmerman, so according to Crump, “People found justice through social media. The major media outlets could not ignore the case because #BlackLivesMatter was omnipresent on social media.”
"We need laws that tell people your life matters," concluded Crump. “By standing up for the Trayvon Martins and Michael Browns of the world, it makes America a great beacon of hope for the rest of the world to marvel. We all have a role to play. Figure out what role you play to make lives better for all our children.”
Raianna Brown, president of AASU, echoed Crump’s sentiments, commenting on students’ role. “We enjoyed hearing how the criminal justice system contributed to the recent #BlackLivesMatter and college student activism movements,” she said. “It is important to learn how we, as students, can help make the criminal justice system more equitable.”
To learn more about the Black History Month Lecture, visit www.diversity.gatech.edu.