The co-founder of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, Opal Tometi, will visit DePauw University on March 6 at 6pm in Kresge Auditorium in the Green Center for the Performing Arts in what is anticipated to be a once in a lifetime opportunity for DePauw students.
#BlackLivesMatter, a historical and political movement, was created in 2013 by Tometi, Alicia Garza and Patrisse Cullors in order to “combat implicit bias and anti-black racism and to protect and affirm the beauty and dignity of all Black lives,” according to Tometi’s website.
Tometi is responsible for founding and customizing an online space for facilitating the organization’s communication and social media when #BlackLivesMatter was a fledgling movement.
According to Tometi’s website, there are now 40 chapters in the nation. In 2016 all the #BlackLivesMatter founders received the first ever Social Movement of The Year Award from the Webby’s and were recognized among the world’s fifty greatest leaders by Fortune.
Tometi is currently the Executive Director for the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), a Black organization for human rights that was founded in 2006. BAJI is a national organization dedicated to teaching people about immigrant rights and racial justice, as well as advocating with and for African-American, Afro-Latino, African and Caribbean immigrant communities.
Tometi will be one of the five people that the National Museum of African American History and Culture will be showing taped interviews of as they discuss identity, activism and race, according to The New York Times.
However, DePauw will have the opportunity to hear her discuss these topics live, as well as other topics such as anti-black bias and immigration.
Her visit was organized by sophomores Mayra Leon and Maria Flores who both serve on DePauw’s advisory board for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) which was created after the 2016 protests to ensure that DePauw was engaging and educating on conversations surrounding immigration.
The event is being co-sponsored by the Bonner Scholar Program, Peace and Conflict Studies Wright Fund and the Compton Center for Peace and Justice.
Tometi’s experience working with immigration reform and different identities means she will urge a more inclusive conversation with regards to immigration.
“Hear for once, from the mouth of a historical figure, what it means to be Black in America, what it means to be a Black undocumented man, woman, or whatever gender you may identify as,” Leon said.
Leon said that the immigration reform movement has revolved around the narrative of Hispanic immigrants, but she is hopeful that Tometis’ visit will address the inclusiveness needed.
Leon and Flores want all students to attend the event, regardless of how they identify and how much knowledge they may have on anti-black bias and immigration. “It is an issue that affects everybody, we want this to be for the campus. I’m hoping it will be one of those events where people have to stand,” Flores said. “No matter what you identify as, you will walk away from that conversation with something.”
Sophomore Estefanie Solis said Tometi’s visit to DePauw, where students come from different backgrounds, is important because of Tometi’s historical significance. “People should be educated on what the movement represents to prevent misconceptions,” Solis said.
Leon sees where we are in history as a continuation of the civil rights movement and equates Tometi to historical figures such as Martin Luther King and his wife. “Times haven’t changed that much,” Leon said, “and we have someone that is of that magnitude among us so it’s pretty historical.”