Black Lives Matter Symposium and essay contest comes to UIS


John Kurecki, Features Reporter

As part of the UIS Black History Month festivities, the Diversity Center is hosting an essay contest which culminates in a symposium where the finalists will present their work. The winner of the contest will receive $500, while the runner up will receive $250 and the third place contestant $100.

The prompt asks students to answer one of two questions, each pertaining to the Black Lives Matter movement. If the student is part of the black community, they are to answer what the movement means to them; if the student is not a part of the community, the student is to explain how their support of the movement has taught them about the larger United States community.

The Diversity Center’s website states, “The essay presentations will provide a greater awareness of and respect for the difficult issues facing Black and African-American peoples in this country by literally taking action through engagement with us in this showcase symposium.”

The essay-writing contest will be incorporated into the Engaged Citizenship Common Experience (ECCE) curriculum, which pertains to all UIS students. The finalists will present their work at the Black Lives Matter symposium in the Brookens Auditorium on Feb. 15, which doubles as an event on the ECCE Speaker Series calendar.

The event will be a part of the ECCE Speakers Series because of its focus on community. According to the Diversity Center, “UIS Students will connect the Black Lives Matter movement to ECCE themes. These themes include how participation in this movement helps them to recognize their own social responsibility toward a larger community of people, Black people.”

The essays are judged on their length (which must be around 1,200 words), relation to the Black Lives Matter movement, incorporation of ECCE learnings, argumentative strength, and technical writing.

It is recommended that the students incorporate the Black Lives Matter movement’s guiding principles, which include diversity, globalism, the affirmation of other groups, and empathy, among others.

In its affirmation of other social groups, the movement hopes to incorporate them in its mission.

According to the Black Lives Matter website, “It goes beyond the narrow nationalism that can be prevalent within some Black communities, which merely call on Black people to love Black, live Black and buy Black, keeping straight cis Black men in front of the movement while our sisters, queer and trans and disabled folk take up roles in the background or not at all.”

The movement has stated, “We are committed to acknowledging, respecting and celebrating difference(s) and commonalities.”

Black Lives Matter was borne from the controversy surrounding the shooting death of Trayvon Martin last year.

The movement explains, “Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.”

The event is intended to illuminate both the movement and its motives.

The Diversity Center said, “We intend that this event will help bring to light the totality of the Black Lives Matter movement beyond sound bites and the glare of sensationalized media due to the prose and rhetorical lens of our students.”

The Symposium is one of many events in the celebration of Black History Month at UIS, which culminates on Feb. 27 with the Ebony Ball.