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Discussion and debate in Black Lives Matter event

UEA tackled racial justice, the history of race and issues of modern racial equality at a virtual Black Lives Matter discussion event last week (Thursday 2 July).

The virtual event was organised by Rebecca Fraser, Rachael Mclennan and Alex Hammond from the Department of American Studies and centred around the recent global Black Lives Matter protests and their impact on both the United States and United Kingdom.

Speakers included:

  • Dr Becky Avila (UEA alumnus of American Studies and Grants Manager of Los Angeles-based not-for-profit organisation, ‘Safe Place for Youth’), who discussed the anti-blackness inherent in the response to the protests and the ways in which such actions by people of colour is never judged as acceptable, no matter how peaceful they are.


  • Kimberly Jones (activist, bookseller and author of YA fiction book I’m Not Dying with you Tonight), who talked about a number of issues related to racism and its histories in the US, beginning with slavery and the conditions of white supremacy that this engendered, which left black people politically and economically disenfranchised, even after emancipation in 1865.


  • Clive Lewis (MP for Norwich South), who named George Floyd’s death as another example of lynching and linked the overwhelming response to his death globally to the condition of lockdown and rates of mortality among black and brown people due to the pandemic, serving to lay bare the extreme inequalities of wealth, health, and status in the US and UK.


  • Piers Harrison-Reid (UEA alumnus of Health Science, and now a Black British poet and A&E nurse at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital), whose reading of “More Blacks, More Dogs, More Irish” and thoughtful reflections on the work of talking and writing about race as a black man in the United Kingdom were particularly moving.


Over 100 people joined the event and all the speakers generated discussion on their topics, underlining the point that the speeches were not just standalone but part of a much broader conversation.

Rebecca Fraser, Associate Professor of American History and Culture from UEA’s Department of American Studies, said: “American Studies at UEA has long been engaged in the process of deep and sustained reflection of the structures of American power and privilege, and the ways in which these are articulated through issues such as race, gender and class.

“Never has it been clearer that we at UEA need to be part of a collective and ongoing conversation that engages the University community – staff and students – in discussions around anti-racist pedagogy, processes of decolonising the University, and how to be a critical ally to such movements.”