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17th Annual Sweatt Symposium to explore hip hop generation’s view of civil rights

‘Progression vs. Regression: The State of the African American Community,’ the 17th annual Heman Sweatt Symposium on Civil Rights April 23-25 at The University of Texas at Austin, will address the effect Hip Hop culture is having on American society and how this generation views civil rights.

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AUSTIN, Texas—“Progression vs. Regression: The State of the African American Community,” the 17th annual Heman Sweatt Symposium on Civil Rights April 23-25 at The University of Texas at Austin, will address the effect hip hop culture is having on American society and how this generation views civil rights.

A keynote address by Ed Gordon, an Emmy Award-winning broadcaster and host of BET Tonight, at 7 p.m., Friday, April 25 at the Frank Erwin Center will highlight this year’s symposium. Other events include a hip hop fashion show and a panel discussion addressing how hip hop is influencing politics, the economy and education. All events are free and open to the public.

Gordon has been described as hard-hitting and inspiring, exacting and intelligent, as well as honest and direct. He has worked at NBC and its cable outlet, MSNBC. He has covered many of the biggest news stories of his day, including Pope John Paul II’s historic visit to Cuba. He conducted a ground-breaking interview with O.J. Simpson immediately following his acquittal and he has interviewed high-profile newsmakers such as Oprah Winfrey, Mary J. Blige, Tupac Shakur, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Nelson Mandela and presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton.

“This year’s symposium really developed out of a discussion students were having at our first planning committee meeting regarding how civil rights icons Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesse Jackson were referred to in the movie ‘Barber Shop,’” said Terry Wilson, chairman of the Sweatt Symposium planning committee. “Most of the students did not see the harm in Cedric the Entertainer poking fun at the civil rights legends, while those who were older and experienced some of the events associated with segregation and the civil rights movement took exception to the remarks.”

“We really wanted to explore how the hip hop generation views civil rights, and we hope the student planned fashion show and the panel discussion will illustrate that to some degree,” said Cookie Peterson, student chair of the event and a senior in African and African American Studies.

The hip hop fashion show is scheduled for 7-9 p.m., Wednesday, April 23, in the Art Auditorium (ART 1.102). Students from a cross-section of organizations will model the latest in hip hop clothing, discuss hip hop culture and listen to hip hop music past and present with a special presentation by POWERHOUZE.

A panel discussion from 6-8 p.m., Thursday, April 24, in the Frances Auditorium of The University of Texas School of Law will address the effect of hip hop on American society: business, education, politics and the arts, as well as how the hip hop generation views traditional civil rights issues, leaders and points of view. 

Panelists will include University of Texas at Austin Associate Professor Craig Watkins, author of “Representing: Hip Hop Culture and the Production of Black Cinema,” Ph.D. candidates Maisha Akbar and Rana Emerson, and KAZI Hip Hop D.J., Sid Sharda, also known as D.J. Kurupt.

The annual symposium is named for Heman Sweatt (1912-1982), who applied for admission to The University of Texas at Austin School of Law in 1946, but was denied admission on the basis of race. Sweatt, with the help of the NAACP, brought legal action against the university. 

In the landmark case, Sweatt vs. Painter, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that separate law school facilities could not provide an education equal in quality to that available at the law school. Sweatt entered the law school in September 1950. 

The Sweatt decision helped pave the way for African Americans to be admitted to formerly segregated colleges and universities across the nation and also led to the overturn of segregation by law in all levels of public education in the landmark case of Brown vs. Board of Education four years later.

For more information contact: Office of Community Relations, 512-232-4850.