February marks the beginning of the commemoration and celebration of black history within the United States.
In 1926, the month of February designated its second week, which coincided with the birthday of President Abraham Lincoln, as “Negro History Week.” By 1976, the federal government under President Ford nationally recognized the month of February to be Black History Month as a part of the agenda set forth for the nation’s bicentennial celebration.
As a part of the commemoration of black history during this month, the African American Student Union (AASU) in conjunction with the Office of Institute Diversity and Student Government Association (SGA) among other sponsors, hosted the university’s third annual Black History Month lecture on Feb. 11. titled “Unity in the Community.”
Among those in attendance for the momentous event was Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students John Stein, AASU President Raianna Brown and SGA President Jen Abrams.
Organized by AASU Black History Month Chair, Chelsea Burks, this year’s event keynote speaker was Benjamin Lloyd Crump, a distinguished attorney whose practice is based in Tallahassee, Fla. Additionally, Crump serves as the president of the National Bar Association.
Among many of the notable court cases he has represented, Crump served as council on the Trayvon Martin case in 2012 against Florida native George Zimmerman. He also served as council for the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson in 2014, as well as on the council for the shooting of 12 year old Tamir Rice in 2014.
The outline of Crump’s lecture at the event was meant to pinpoint the status of the criminal justice system, the #BlackLivesMatter movement and college student activism today.
“I want to speak to you all here from the very bottom of my heart … . We are at a pivotal moment in the status of law and society,” Crump said.
The distinguished attorney continued to emphasize the important role that students, like those attending a higher institution such as Tech, played in being able to bring the issue of the Martin, Garner and Rice cases to the forefront of media attention.
“Students, like you all, have helped advance the movements we see through your use of social media,” Crump said.
“You are all fortunate enough to be at this institute of prestige where you have opportunity to do anything you want to do, and you know in your heart what is right. But I must ask of you all a pivotal question: where do you stand in the crux of the matter?”
Crump spent a large portion of his lecture isolating and explaining the unique situation the American social justice scene faces after the infamous murder of Trayvon Martin in 2012.
“All of the cases we see today, such as the murders of Tamir Rice and Eric Garner, were catapulted forward because of [what transpired after] Trayvon Martin,” Crump said.
“These cases have brought around a convergence of issues such as: gated communities, police, racial profiling and ‘Stand Your Ground Laws.’”
The major conclusion and drive home focus of Crump’s lecture was the role that social media can play in propelling the issues which the African American community, in addition to other minority communities, face moving forward in the future of the United States.
“When it came to the Trayvon Martin case, you all kept using your social media platforms. It was because of social media continuously talking about the issue [in question] that propelled it forward,” Crump said.
“The undertaking that arose as a result of the case of Trayvon Martin’s death was one of the most organic movements I have ever seen before. Moral-minded, good people, like yourselves, have to stand up against unjust laws.”
Crump brought his lecture full circle by asking the audience the question he had originally asked the audience at the beginning of his lecture: “where do you stand in the crux of the matter?”
“I want to conclude my time with you all here with a quote from my personal hero, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall,” Crump said. “‘A child born to a black mother in a state like Mississippi … has the same rights as a white baby born to the wealthiest person in the United States. It’s not true, but I challenge anyone to say it is not a goal worth working for.’ So let us stand up for equal rights and make America a beacon of hope once again.”