“What is our role as students, activists as educators in the current political moment?”
This was the question posed by Dr. Gaye Theresa Johnson to a room full of UTSA students and educators.
Dr. Johnson, UCLA associate professor of Chicana and Chicano studies and African American studies, lectured on “The Status and Future of Ethnic/Race and Women’s Studies” on Wed., Feb. 22.
The lecture was sponsored by the UTSA College of Education and Human Development’s Consortium for Social Transformation, an administrative unit in the department which encompasses African American studies, women’s studies and Mexican-American studies.
“The current political moment is so important,” Dr. Johnson said. “I found myself incredibly demoralized about all the things happening.” Recent events include the Dakota Pipeline and the U.S. travel ban and deportation.
Dr. Johnson took the audience on a tour of her publication history, or rather, her publications as they relate to the current political climate. Dr. Johnson writes and teaches on race and racism, cultural history, spatial politics and political economy.
“These Walls Will Fall: Protest at the Intersection of Immigrant Detention and Mass Incarceration” is about social protests; moreover, ethnic narratives of resistance.
Examples of protest art were showcased in response to the recent U.S. immigration bans and deportations. Dr. Johnson emphasized the concept of protest art as a counter narrative to left wing press and as a retaliation against the U.S. government.
Dr. Johnson showcased art by Austin artist Ernesto Yerena Montejaro; more specifically, a print entitled “my spirit carries the prayer of the ancestors” from his “Hecho con Ganas” print collection.
Music by band La Santa Cecilia was also showcased. The audience was shown the music video for “El Hielo (ICE).” The song and its accompanying music video provide an insight perspective of the problems of illegal immigration in the U.S. The song tells the story of three undocumented characters’ struggle to provide a secure life for themselves and their families.
Dr. Johnson had this to say about the power of music:
“Music creates a landscape—a home where listeners can never be evicted. It creates a belonging beyond authorization.”
Dr. Johnson’s forthcoming book, “The Futures of Black Radicalism” is meant to revisit the escalation of anti-black state violence and its internationalism.
“It is a truth worth knowing for all people,” Dr. Johnson said. “Our central concern should be to abolish all forms of oppression.”
Dr. Johnson equates the success of the Trump administration to a reliance on white supremacy.
“White supremacy is fragile in its construction because it is hostile to its own history,” Dr. Johnson said, “It is our job as students and scholars to make that history discernable. The mobilization of the right that culminated in the election of Trump as president, but it also the mobilization of the history and struggles of the left that made us prepared and poised to meet this moment with an incredible amount of struggle and preparation for the struggles that we have ahead.”
Dr. Johnson quotes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by stating, “The cry is always the same: we want to be free.”
Sophomore women’s studies major Carla Rivera stated the importance of not losing hope in the face of adversity after the lecture.
“Even if right now nothing is working out,” Rivera said, “Later on, it does pay off. Suddenly things work out. Hard work pays off by having stamina.”
Graduate ESL student John Gahan liked Dr. Johnson’s emphasis on the cooperation between racial groups of common ground of equality and justice.
Dr. Johnson’s forthcoming book “The Futures of Black Radicalism” will be released in April 2017.