On Feb. 5, the African American Student Union and supporting sponsors provided the Georgia Tech Black History Month Lecture with Melissa V. Harris-Perry as the keynote speaker. Harris-Perry is an author, professor, speaker on African American politics and host of her own show, “Melissa Harris-Perry Weekend News.”
Harris-Perry was invited to speak in order to hold a lecture and conversation on the significant influences that African Americans have made on society in our country, and, while she spoke about these points, she commented on political, social and economic progress in terms of African American history and continued to maintain democracy in our government.
“To live in a democracy is to have the right to govern, not simply to be governed, which is simply to say that it does in fact matter what bodies can occupy the spaces of governing. These bodies matter even if as we try to pull apart the idea of substantive and descriptive representation. I’m going to make a claim that to live in a democracy is to have the right to govern not to be governed, to rule not just to be ruled, to be heard not silenced and this is the key idea,” Harris-Perry said.
The keynote speaker also commented on the struggles that African American, as well as other minorities, have experienced and have inherited in terms of equality and freedoms in our country. For democracy, Harris-Perry explains that while some groups may succeed in government, they do not have total control and that opposing groups have the right to struggle for what they believe is right. She applies this to historical efforts toward freedom.
“Once we have the underpinning that the winners in democracy don’t get to take everything, I want to acknowledge that securing these rights in this nation has required struggle,” Harris-Perry said. “That may be what democracy is meant to be but what it has been is a series of struggle, and that these struggles are real and that are embodied. There is a struggle for freedom in this country.”
The African American Student Union, the Office of Institute Diversity and other supporting sponsors wanted a speaker who could engage the campus in thoughts over historical and societal progress and reflect on Tech’s goal to be an advocate on diversity.
“This is a first in that we can put the stamp of the Institute upon this event and support it in the future as one of the important conversations that we continue to have about building an inclusive and excellent community at Georgia Tech,” said Archie Ervin, Vice President for Institute Diversity. “I think its fair to say at this point in the history of our society that most people acknowledge that African Americans have made significant contributions to the social economic, and political fabric of this country that we know.”
As member of the African American Student Union, Maya Carrasqullo believed that the Black History Month Lecture became a huge success with Harris-Perry as a speaker, and she believes that, as the keynote speaker, she could present ideas that emphasized the messages of Black History Month because Harris-Perry has shown unique and respected views in African American politics.
“I had never in my wildest dreams imagined that it would come to fruition as it has. There was a tremendous amount of support and excitement generated by this initiative and obviously for good reason,” Carrasquillo said. “With all of her accomplishments and contributions toward addressing issues in contemporary black America there is no other person better suited to have as our first campus wide Black History Month speaker.”