"To read Cesaire's work in light of recent events is to bear witness to the ongoing struggles of Black people. His work is rooted in the history of Blackness."
Professor Frieda Ekotto, University of Michigan, Department of Afroamerican and African Studies
The latest speaker in the African Studies Center Speaker Series argued that Black Lives Matter and social media activism are a continuation of Aime Cesaire's writings on negritude.
UCLA International Institute, February 23, 2018 -- The UCLA African Studies Center welcomed Frieda Ekotto, professor of comparative literature and chair of the department of Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan, on February 12 as part of its African Studies Center Speaker Series; the UCLA Department of African American Studies cosponsored the event.
In her talk, Ekotto positioned the Black Lives Matter movement as a continuation of the struggle for dignity articulated in Aime Cesaire's writings on "negritude" in the 1930s. Cesaire (1913-2008) was a Francophone poet from Martinique who was educated in Paris and returned to Martinique to teach, write and publish. Ekotto argued that social media has allowed Black activists to rebel against dominant discourses, much like Cesaire rejected white narratives in his poetry, which spurred the Negritude literary movement that embraced the writer's African identity.
Unspoken Racialized Violence
"Racial politics remain at the core of American life," said Ekotto. "Issues of police brutality, mass incarceration and interpersonal violence at home and abroad have been at the forefront of our political consciousness. All of this violence has origins in the history of memory, origins that have been overlooked if not erased," she said.
"From slavery to segregation, violence against Black bodies has been well documented but gone unspoken. In some respects, social media has changed this dynamic," she continued. "Anyone can snap a picture with the potential to circulate globally and alter the conversation in a moment.
"For Black intellectuals of the past, this wasn't the case. They had to engage with dominant discourses, which often led to their being silenced," Ekotto said, pointing to Ralph Ellison's narrative of the erasure experienced by Black men in his book Invisible Man.
"Today's Black Lives Matter movement seeks to right this erasure of history," said the speaker, referring to the activist movement that emerged after the 2012 killing of...