MEDIA ADVISORY: UT Austin’s First Black Studies Conference Brings Notable Leaders, Scholars to Explore Role of Activism

EVENT: From the Black Lives Matter movement to the role of the arts, public education and policy, notable scholars and activists will shed light on topics involving the black diasporas at “Black Matters: The Future of Black Scholarship and Activism,” the first international black studies conference to be held at The University of Texas at Austin.

Featured guests include venerated activist Angela Y. Davis, musician and spoken word artist Saul Williams, and Lezley McSpadden, the mother of Michael Brown and author of “Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil: The Life, Legacy, and Love of My Son Michael Brown.”

WHEN: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, and 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 30. For a full schedule of events, visit the event’s website.

WHERE: The Lady Bird Johnson Auditorium, 2313 Red River St.

Parking is limited but spaces are available in lot 40 on the corner of Dean Keeton Street and Red River Street.

WHO MAY ATTEND: Public registration has reached full capacity and is now closed.

Members of the media are asked to RSVP to the Office of Public Affairs in the College of Liberal Arts at 512-471-2689. Space is limited. The event will be live-streamed in the press room, located at the LLILAS Benson second-floor conference room in Sid Richardson Hall Unit 1, 2300 Red River St.

LIVE STREAMING: The event will be streamed live on the Black Matters conference website blackstudiesatut-blackmatters.com.

BACKGROUND: Many of the themes scheduled to be discussed at the conference are informed by events occurring in the United States. The UT Austin Black Studies program is notable for emphasizing the African diasporas, which include populations from Europe and the Middle East to South America, the Caribbean and beyond.

“We are taking a global look at the social and political landscape of black lives in the United States and beyond. We aim to show how critical thinking, scholarly work and grass-roots activism intersect in black studies,” said Cherise Smith, an associate professor and director of the John L. Warfield Center at The University of Texas at Austin. “The conference showcases artists and scholars who will speak about culture, history and policy and its importance to the community and the academy.”

Speaker events include:

  • 9 a.m., Sept. 29: Lezley McSpadden, the mother of Michael Brown, the teenager killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, sparking the Black Lives Matter movement.
  • 7 p.m., Sept. 29: Saul Williams, a spoken word artist who — since his 2001 debut album “Amethyst Rock Star” — has gained global fame for his poetry and writings and has performed in more than 30 countries.
  • 5 p.m., Sept. 30: Angela Y. Davis, professor and civil rights icon known internationally for her ongoing work to combat all forms of oppression in the U.S. and beyond, will deliver the keynote address. Please be advised: Videography will not be permitted at this event though photography is allowed.

Other panels will address the role of black artists in social and political movements, anti-black violence against women around the world, black queer diaspora, how policy impacts the lives of black people, the history of using literature to create counter narratives, and the relationship between black athletes, politics and the academy. A full schedule of events may be found here.

The John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies, along with the African and African Diaspora Studies Department and the Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis comprise the three branches of black studies in the College of Liberal Arts at The University of Texas at Austin.