The Paul Robeson Cultural Center proved that Black Lives Still Matter last night. In their event of the same name, activists and police officers spoke about the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement. Activist Deray Mckesson, State College Police Chief Thomas King, and University Police Chief Tyrone Parham each spoke at the event, which took place in the HUB’s Freeman Auditorium.
The evening started off with a powerful opening speech by Paul Robeson Cultural Center Director Carlos Wiley. The speech was based on one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s most radical speeches, “Where Do We Go From Here?” Wiley included the opening of Dr. King’s speech in his own speech. When MLK Jr. first gave the speech, he argued a black person was 50 percent of a person who only received 50 percent of life’s benefits while receiving double the tragedies and injustices. Wiley explained that even though that speech was given 48 years ago, there is still segregation and oppression evident today.
Next to speak was Police Chief Thomas King. Chief King spoke about accountability and how it is important to recognize a problem so it does not grow. King emphasized the idea that police officers should not do things to people, but rather for people.
Picking up where Chief King left off, University Police Chief Tyrone discussed the role of police officers as public servants. Parham also expressed that police want to learn more about the problems about incompetent policing.
Keynote speaker Deray Mckesson, an activist for the Black Lives Matter movement, followed the two police chiefs. Mckesson opened with a question, “How many of you have had a negative experience with a police officer?” As attendees raided their hands, Mckesson’s question demonstrated the situation the Black Lives Matter movement is faced with is more than just a handful of isolated incidents.
“The police shouldn’t have to know my name not to kill me,” Mckesson said. “There’s a narrative that’s been created that it’s our responsibility for the police to know us. They shouldn’t have to know my name, my family, or the fact that I have a niece and nephew not to kill me.”
The mix of police testimony and activist accounts created an interesting dynamic in Freeman Auditorium on Wednesday. However, The PRCC’s event made one thing clear: the Black Lives Matter movement is alive in State College and the Penn State community.