Tometi talks of race, immigrants


Opal Tometi, a cofounder of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement, came to speak at Susquehanna on Sept. 21.

“Tell them the stories,” Tometi said. “Explain to others why you care. That will make your stance all the more compelling.”

Tometi’s talk focused on the events that have played a role in the #BlackLivesMatter movement, its founding and the goal of the movement as a whole. She also spoke of immigration rights and concerns, noting the struggle faced by her own parents, who are immigrants from Nigeria.

Tometi’s talk reflected on her personal connections to both racial and immigration issues prevalent within contemporary society. She said the Black Lives Matter movement is a motion for black Americans to receive

recognition of their inherent human dignity. Tometi said that the movement has adapted to offer the words to those who want to demand their inherent rights to freedom and equality, and to have those rights be upheld and honored.

Tometi said: “This is going to be the story of this generation. This is a radical, unapologetic love for our people and all people. This is a movement meant to change the entire narrative of our society and the world.”

Audience members were receptive and supportive of Tometi’s words. “All lives matter,” said Doug Orbaker, retired Presbyterian Pastor of Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania. Orbaker continued, “But let’s look at the ones that are least mentioned. We are all responsible and we can’t let this movement die.”

Orbaker and his wife Penn Garven, a retired human rights worker, have been involved in Civil Rights movements since the 1960s. Orbaker said they were excited to see a new movement that pushes so strongly for equality gaining so much support.

Some audience members approached the talk with a more open mind, brought to the event by their curiosity.

“I came because I think it’s really important to be informed about these types of things,” said senior Debra Martin.

Martin said: “It’s important to hear what people have to say, especially since my experiences are so different from hers and from others in the movement. It’s always good to get a new perspective.”

Patricia Williams, a first-year student from Bucknell, said she had wanted to hear Tometi speak for a long time.

Williams explained she intended to take what she has learned back to Bucknell with her and to grow from the experience the event provided her.

Williams said, “Students who don’t see the inequalities around them, and those who do, should take the chance to educate themselves. It would make us all better people, and maybe learn to empathize better.”

Dena Salerno, the associate dean for the department of intercultural and community engagement, introduced Tometi. Salerno said that Tometi was invited by a joint committee of the department of intercultural and community engagement, the career development center and the Chaplain’s office.

Salerno said the talk was part of a wider effort to build unity and justice in both Susquehanna and local communities.