A section of the talk, titled “A Slogan Proliferates,” discussed the
use of various hash tags by Black Lives Matter activists. Many use the
names of people killed by police, and one, “#Say Her Name,” focusing on
women who have died, was created and is led by black women. That slogan
has become a movement within the larger movement, Peterson said.
“Feminism and anti-racism movements have often asked black women to
choose one or the other,” he said during a question-and-answer session
that followed the talk. “But they intersect every day for black women,
and that’s important.”
Black Lives Matter — “Wherever I go, the leaders are black women”— is
making progress in bringing the two movements together, Peterson said.
He added that those interested in the movement should also consider
other areas that intersect in people’s lives and in society, including
race, class and poverty.
In the final topic of the speech, Peterson described a visit he and
his family made to Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina,
several weeks after the shootings killed eight church members and their
senior pastor at a prayer meeting. The gunman, with numerous ties to
white supremacy views, has been indicted on murder and federal hate
“Even with the blood still in the rug, it is a beautiful, beautiful
church,” he said of the historic church often known as “Mother
He described the outpouring of letters, gifts and visitors to the
congregation after the shootings, and said many visitors spoke briefly
at the Sunday service to express their condolences. However, Peterson
said he was struck by how many individual speakers seemed to focus on
their own reactions to the tragedy rather than on those in the church
and community who must live with the results of the violence every day.
“It made me realize that it’s not about an individual response; it’s
about what we can do for the community affected by it,” he said. “This
movement is about community.”
More about James Braxton Peterson and his lecture
Peterson has written numerous scholarly articles on hip hop culture and linguistics, as well as urban studies. His first book, The Hip Hop Underground and African American Culture, was published in September 2014.
He also is a regular contributor to publications including Huffington Post, TheGrio.com, BET.comand The Daily Beast and has appeared on MSNBC, Al-Jazeera, CNN, HLN, Fox Newsand
other networks as an expert on race, politics and popular culture.
Peterson hosts “The Remix,” a podcast that engages issues at the
intersection of race, politics and popular culture, on Philadelphia’s
NPR affiliate, WHYY.
His talk was hosted by the Department of Black American Studies and
sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences, the vice provost for
diversity, University Museums, the Center for Black Culture, the Center
for Political Communication, the Center for the Study of Diversity and
the departments of English, History, Political Science and International
Relations, and Public Policy and Administration.