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Tuesday, August 11, 2020 - 12:30pm

As part of the International Speakers Series, Mercy College’s Center for Global Engagement (CGE) hosted a virtual presentation on July 29 to explore global perspectives on the Black Lives Matter movement. The presenters were three Mercy faculty members — Victor Petenkemani, Ph.D.; Eduardo Albrecht, Ph.D.; and Michiko Kuroda — and two guest faculty — Kwame Phillips, Ph.D., and Arelle Binning. This presentation continued the conversation that started on July 22 when six Mercy faculty members discussed national-focused perspectives on the Black Lives Matter movement.

After a brief introduction by Associate Provost Saul Fisher, Ph.D., moderator Aiisha Harden Russell, Ph.D. — research and grants coordinator in the Provost’s Office — opened the discussion by acknowledging the late congressman John Lewis: “His pioneering work and efforts serve as an anchor for the Black Lives movement and show that the issues of racial injustice and the struggle for equality have a long history in the U.S. and abroad. It shows that we still have a long way to go.”

Phillips — a communications and media studies professor at John Cabot University in Rome, Italy — spoke about the resonance of the Black Lives Matter movement in the United Kingdom. He asserted that the Black Lives Matter movement is unavoidably a global movement. The basic tenets of the movement are universal and not unique to the Black experience in the U.S. He explained that in the U.K., there have been decades of similar protests and activism against racism, but these have been largely ignored. Even so, the Black Lives Matter movement relies on this history to create global solidarity.

Binning — an independent researcher and consultant who wrote her master’s thesis at the City University of New York (CUNY) on the Black Lives Matter movement — spoke about how she sees the Black Lives Matter movement as a beacon of hope that has connected movements across the world. As part of her thesis research, she spoke with activists from every continent who lead movements such as Kenya’s Feminist Movement, Brazil’s Favela Lives Matter campaign and India’s Dalit Minority Tribal Lives Matter campaign. She asserted that the Black Lives Matter movement influenced, reenergized and even caused the formation of other movements across the world.

Petenkemani — associate dean of Mercy’s School of Business and professor of business — opened his presentation with his own story. Born in Africa, he lived in France for 10 years before making the decision to move to the U.S. “Even with all the challenges we have, America still remains the best place for a Black man or a Black person to at least dream to achieve racial justice,” he said. In the rest of his presentation, he examined the situation of Black people across the world. In Latin America, he says that the legacy of slavery still runs deep. Africa dealt with both slavery and colonialization. The immigration of Black people to Europe is more recent, and there is no structure to protect minorities. And the immigration of Black people to Asia is even more recent. He believes that the U.S. provides the best hope for racial justice because “the U.S. is the only country that provides checks and balances that can really offer protection for human rights.”

Albrecht — associate dean of the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences and associate professor in Mercy’s international relations and diplomacy program — discussed the roots of similar social movements in other parts of the world. The U.S.’s Black Lives Matter movement is the result of slavery, he explained, whereas similar movements in other parts of the world such as Kenya are the result of colonialism. Slavery and colonialism are both the products of capitalism, which focuses on extracting resources and labor to make money. He asserted that ethnic or racial markers are often used to perpetuate that extraction of resources and labor. Even when colonialism is dismantled, a specific ethnic group usually inherits colonial institutions, keeping power and resources within their group, which simply continues the exploitation of resources and labor.

Kuroda — visiting fellow to Mercy’s CGE and an instructor in international relations and diplomacy — explained how the United Nations (U.N.) is addressing the Black Lives Matter movement. In June, the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) held an urgent debate on allegations of systemic racism and policy brutality in the U.S., and Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s brother, urged the HRC to investigate police killings of Black Americans. She detailed the relevant structures, conventions and treaties that help the U.N. address racial discrimination. Kuroda asserted that U.N. member states are becoming more critical of the way the U.S. government has responded to the Black Lives Matter movement, which she hopes may encourage concilation and negotiation.  

The presentations were followed by a question and answer session that discussed topics such as whether focusing on individual rights keeps us from truly achieving justice and how Black communities should deal with public symbols of colonialism and slavery.

To view a recording of this webinar, please click here and enter the password: qrJEa@3?.