Former Black Panther speaks at VCU

Matt Leonard

Staff Writer

Former Black Panther leader Elaine Brown spoke on Wednesday to students and faculty on the problems facing African Americans today in the United States.

Black panther
Former Black Panther leader Elaine Brown spoke on Wednesday to students and faculty at the Grace Street Theater.

Brown’s lecture, “Where Do We Go from Here? Social Justice in the New Millennium,” was held in in the Grace Street Theater. Brown discussed life for African Americans in America. She said black unemployment is higher than any other race, black business owners only make up 1 percent of all business revenue. Blacks also have the highest rate of homelessness and lowest education levels in America, Brown said.

Brown opened the lecture with poverty statistics for Richmond.

“In Richmond, Virginia a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line, half live at or above poverty line, and half of impoverished individuals are black people,” Brown said. “All of these statistic suggest there is either an inherent problem with black people, or there is an inherent problem in the scheme of things.”

Brown discussed  about Thomas Jefferson owning slaves, touched on the post-civil war era and the Jim Crow south, mentioned the introduction of crack cocaine into black neighborhoods and ended with a discussion on Clinton and other neo-liberals.

“In Memphis, in 1993 Clinton stood in front of a crowd of mostly black people and asked them ‘What do you think Martin Luther King would say if he were alive today?’” Brown said. “He responded with, ‘I died for your freedom and look what you’ve done with it.’ Clinton wanted to blame us for what was going wrong.”

Brown fielded questions from the audience after the lecture on everything from hip-hop to Trayvon Martin.

“I support stand your ground laws because I tend to stand my ground,” Brown said in response to a question about the Trayvon Martin case. “I’m not going to lie down on the ground and get shot in the back by the police like Oscar Grant.”

Students who attended the lecture were excited by Brown’s talk.

“There is a lot of talk about how we need to change the world,” said Allyne Sendolo, a senior political science major. “Politics is major problem because there are all these laws set in place that don’t give people that are disenfranchised justice and those are the people we need to enfranchise.”

Junior psychology major Eunhee Yoo said she was inspired by Brown’s speech.

“It’s not a race thing, it’s a human thing,” Yoo said. “I think we need to care more.”

The event was part of a larger program organized by the Grace Harris Leadership Institute, which seeks to get individuals involved in volunteer work, said Kimberly Brown chairperson of the Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies.

“Elaine Brown is here tonight to remind us of that activist spirit and to reinvigorate a commitment to the community and to think outside of ourselves,” Brown said.


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