The College of Charleston’s Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI) recently welcomed its first visiting scholar, Lisa Brock.
A Cincinnati native, Brock joins the College community from Kalamazoo College, where she is the founding academic director of the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership.
On the heels of her recent welcome reception at the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture, Brock spoke with The College Today about her current scholarship and plans for her stay, which lasts through November 2017.
“Primarily, I am here to do research for my upcoming book on Charleston’s urban black ‘port’ culture during the epoch of enslavement. For enslaved captives disembarking in the U.S., Charleston is the single most important port,” she says, noting that she’s doing much of her research in the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture and Addlestone Library’s Special Collections.
Brock’s visiting position is supported by RSJI, a Google-funded collaboration formed in response to the shooting death of Walter Scott by a police officer in April 2015 and the mass shooting at Emanuel AME Church two months later.
A rebel all her life, Brock’s activism began in her teens, fighting for the rights of young women and African Americans. Throughout her college years in Washington, D.C. and Chicago she battled against police violence and became a national leader in the Anti-Apartheid Movement.
Having cut her teeth as an advocate and activist long before the emergence of Facebook, Brock believes social media has both helped and hindered the pursuit of social justice.
“When I began we had mimeo machines, flyers, and press conferences to get our issues out. Nowadays, the quick pace of news output and consumption is daunting. Frames can change very quickly. Sometimes it feels like the game ‘Telephone’,” she says. “For instance, Colin Kaepernick took a knee like Dr. King and others during the Civil Rights Movement to highlight the high number of police killings of unarmed Black Americans, for which there is no punishment, accountability or conviction of the police who do this. Now everyone is talking about the national anthem, the flag and the NFL.”
At the same time, social media has also served to expand democracy in ways that should be appreciated, she says. “Today, more eyes and voices are heard from and seen. It has captured the imagination of billions all over the world. So, there is both good and bad.”
Brock’s says she is honored to take part in RSJI’s efforts to promote awareness of the history and ongoing struggles of racial injustice in Charleston and throughout the U.S.
“I have always said that what oppressed people expect from those who have benefitted from privilege is not ‘politically correct’ perfection but simple honesty,” she says. “Denial and deflection perpetuate the problem and is very frustrating. That is what inspires me, that the College is working for a future where we can all be free from the shackles of the past.”
Feature photo by Reese Moore.