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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Social Activist Alicia Garza Delivers President’s Lecture Series Address

By Tom Robinson

Alicia Garza, co-creator of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, discussed activism and racial inequality in an address Tuesday, Feb. 2 delivered as part of the President's Lecture Series at Old Dominion University.

"It's not racist to talk about race," Garza, brought to ODU through a student-led initiative, told an audience of 1,500 at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. "Racism isn't about people being mean to each other. It's about systems and patterns and practices and policies that privilege some at the expense of others."

Garza discussed the emotional letter she posted on social media three years ago after George Zimmerman's acquittal in the death of African American teen Trayvon Martin in Florida that sparked #BlackLivesMatter.

Along with co-founders Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, Garza has helped expand #BlackLivesMatter to 28 chapters nationwide and in Canada. The movement gained wide attention by organizing street protests in Ferguson, Mo. in 2014 following the shooting death of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old African American, by white police officer Darren Wilson.

"That is how a hashtag grew into a movement," said Garza, who called herself "just an ordinary person" who decided to act on behalf of others. "People went home and they organized. People learned from what folks were doing on the ground in St. Louis and brought it back into their communities."

Garza stressed that #BlackLivesMatter promotes inclusion. "Our agenda is rooted in the deep, profound love that says that everybody has a role," Garza said, "and that we are made better when we can be who we fully are, everywhere that we are."

Garza's appearance was added recently to Old Dominion's President's Lecture Series at the behest of student organizations, and with the enthusiastic support of President John R. Broderick, said senior biochemistry major Rachael Edmonds.

"President Broderick really pushed for this," said Edmonds, director of legislative affairs and diversity for the Student Government Association, who introduced Garza. "Once the students brought it up, he said, 'We've got to make this happen.'"

SGA president Christopher Ndiritu said representatives of various student organizations plan to meet soon to revisit and spread Garza's message.

"This is beautiful, and Ms. Garza is an amazing person," Ndiritu said. "We'll talk about what we can do next for our campus, and 'how do we get to the next level?'"

Since 1991, Old Dominion's President's Lecture Series has served as a marketplace for ideas, featuring fascinating personalities who share their knowledge, experience, opinions and accomplishments. Discussing timely topics, the series puts diversity first, offering an international lineup of authors and educators, business innovators and political figures. The series is free and open to the public.

Next in the series is former Cuban hostage Alan Gross, who will present the Marc and Connie Jacobson Raoul Wallenberg Humanitarian Lecture on Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 7:30 p.m. at Webb University Center,

And on Tuesday, March 22, Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and co-director of the Caring Across Generations campaign, will speak at the Ted Constant Convocation Center at 7:30 p.m.

For more information about the President's Lecture Series, contact Old Dominion University's Office of Community Engagement at 757-683-3116.