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Monday, April 6, 2020

Chapter leader of Black Lives Matter speaks at Western

By Julia Furukawa

Activist, scholar, playwright, artist and a director of the Black Lives Matter Los Angeles chapter Funmilola Fagbamila spoke to the Western community on Tuesday, Feb. 6.

“We’re gonna have a frank conversation, okay?” Fagbamila said, opening her presentation organized by the Associated Students Social Issues Resource Center in Miller Hall.

She brought up the ongoing national conversation about police brutality, specifically regarding the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in 2012 at the hands of police. A smiling photo of Rice was projected behind Fagbamila as she spoke.

Photo by Julia Furukawa.

She urged audience members to question why a child so young could be perceived as a threat. Fagbamila said that according to studies, black children are not treated with the same leniency as white children because of systemic racism, and thus, are often perceived as 4-5 years older than they really are.

“This effectively relinquishes them of their innocence,” she said.

Fagbamila currently works as a professor of Pan-African Studies at California State University, Los Angeles, and is the arts and culture director for the Black Lives Matter Los Angeles chapter.

Her presentation focused on her work with the Black Lives Matter movement and unpacking the violence and racism that affect black people in the U.S. every day.

Fagbamila said the same passion she has about educating people about systemic racism and anti-racist responses inspired her to write a spoken-word play, “The Intersection.”

She said “The Intersection,” set to premiere in March, deals with conflict between divisive opinions within the black community during the era of Black Lives Matter.

Photo by Julia Furukawa.

Fagbamila showed the audience a short trailer for the project, entitled “Woke Black Folk.” The video featured her performing a spoken word poem set to a beat. Fagbamila took on the personas of four different black people, each with a different agenda regarding the Black Lives Matter movement.

Fagbamila said she initially had trepidation surrounding the project, worried that some people might find it distasteful. However, she said when she received support from one of her role models, Angela Davis, she became much more confident in her work.

“When Angela Davis gives you the stamp of approval on something, you move forward with it – with fervor,” she said.

“The Intersection” will debut March 2 in California at the Pan-African Film Festival.

More of Fagbamila’s work can be found online at her website or on her Instagram.

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