Xavier Livermon, an associate professor of African and African Diaspora Studies, led a discussion on the influence of the LGBTQ+ community in the Black Lives Matter movement and its change over time Friday afternoon.
The live lecture, hosted by the UT Senate of College Councils, began with a 30-minute look at the intersections between the LGBTQ+ rights movements and the Black Lives Matter movement and how these movements have always been linked through Black queer figures. This was followed by a question and answer session from students, which included a discussion about what changes can take place at UT to improve the experiences of Black LGBTQ+ students.
Livermon said Black queer activists such as Marsha P. Johnson and James Baldwin have consistently been at the center of political activism in the United States. However, he said there has been a disconnect with these figures being forced to put part of their identity on the sidelines to advocate for one movement over the other. Recently, he believes that the younger generation is insisting that people acknowledge the whole of who they are.
“Black queer people have always been a part of the journey to Black freedom,” Livermon said. “It’s important to remember that that’s the case both for Black liberation movements and queer liberation movements.”
Livermon said there is a disproportionate political response when Black women, transgender people and Black men who are queer or not cisgender face violence. Although there is a more radical queer movement building currently, he said in the past, many Black people have not been overly invested in queer rights movements because they felt the previous movements had failed them.
“Part of the argument that Black queer (and) Black trans folk are making is that if our lives matter in a particular kind of way, because we are oftentimes the most marginalized within communal formations, it actually would make everyone's lives matter,” Livermon said.
Within the University community, Livermon said people can help by listening to others’ experiences, asking why there is a need for a police force and looking for ways to fund more counselors for Black queer people. He said another step in the right direction for the University would be more financial aid and making sure students are food secure.
“As a faculty member, I don’t presume to know what it is that Black queer students need,” Livermon said. “(But) let’s find out what is needed and then let’s actually do what is needed, not just find out what’s needed and shelve it away.”
Livermon said one place he has seen a shift in the movement is in the use of social media instead of relying on mainstream media, which is typically owned by the wealthy elite and usually does not rock the boat. He said social media has allowed for voices of those who wouldn’t normally have access to mainstream media to create a more inclusive and radical movement.
“There's a way in which I can have a particular kind of conversation,” Livermon said. “I can organize, I can hear the voices of Black trans folk, I can hear the voices of nonmainstream Black queer folk that I just wouldn't be able to have access to ordinarily.”
Livermon recommended activists and scholars Angela Davis and Ruth Wilson Gilmore for those who were looking to further their knowledge on prison abolition. A recording of Livermon’s talk will be posted on the UT Senate website with subtitles.
Suseth Muñoz, the UT Senate diversity coordinator, said the event had more than 100 viewers during the hour and maintained about 40 viewers throughout the hour. The talk is one of multiple teach-ins Senate plans to host over the summer highlighting different professors.
“These conversations are things that have existed for years,” said Muñoz, an English, government, and youth and community studies junior. “But a lot of people are really getting into learning more about social activism and about intersectionality of all of these movements and how they have come to fruition, so we thought it would be best to contact somebody that has a Ph.D. and has done the research behind this.”