Black Lives Matter co-founders share message with overflow crowd

1Black Lives Matter co-founders Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors (right) speak to a packed auditorium in Debartolo. Ashley Lunford, (left) interim MSPS Assistant Director for Programming, served as the moderator

Black Lives Matter co-founders Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors spoke January 18 to an overflow crowd of 600 interested students, faculty, administrators and South Bend community members at DeBartolo Hall.

The event was part of the University’s Walk the Walk Week observance, a series of events designed to encourage in-depth conversations about diversity and inclusion on campus.

Cullors and Tometi, along with fellow community organizer Alicia Garza, began their online #BlackLivesMatter campaign in the summer of 2013 after the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

Cullors and Tometi spoke on diverse topics such as race relations, feminism and LGBTQ issues, poverty, police brutality, prison reform, and immigration reform among others, but throughout the evening the underlying thread was the ongoing movement to improve the lives of black people both in America and internationally. Stressing the importance of strength in numbers, they encouraged the audience to join organizations in order to effect change and welcomed those who came out to hear them speak to “the team.”

Iris Outlaw, director of Multicultural Students Programs and Services (MSPS), stressed the impact of this visit: “This event created an opportunity for the community to have intellectual discourse about providing human dignity to those lives who have been devalued by society. Opal and Patrisse challenged us to determine what role we would play in instituting change. It’s important for those who serve as change agents to incorporate residual care to maintain their health and wellbeing as well.”

Notre Dame seniors Steven Waller and Chizo Ekechukawu shared their reactions to the event with a reporter from a local television station.

“Change is really made when people are made to feel uncomfortable and actually address some of the issues," Waller said, “It really makes what we’re doing on campus feel really important and really relevant going forward, some of the needs that we’re trying to change our campus in terms of diversity and inclusion.”

Said Ekechukawu, “I think we need to hold more dialogues. We need to create more space for people to discuss those issues and really figure out how we’re going to move forward.”

This event was co-sponsored by MSPS, Gender Relations Center, Center for Arts and Culture, Student Government, Department of Africana Studies and Division of Student Affairs.


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Originally published by Sarah Snider at on January 20, 2016.