The Matthew J. Perry Jr. chapter of the National Black Law Students Association (BLSA) hosted a virtual panel Thursday night honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Topics discussed included the killing of George Floyd and how to create change moving forward.
“At this time, where examples of social injustice and systemic oppression can be seen throughout our nation daily, I believe it is essential to discuss the issues that continue to plague communities of color throughout our country,” Brandon Adams, the president of BLSA, said.
The forum, titled “Applying 2020 Vision in 2021: A Clear View of Our Community’s Pursuit Towards MLK’s Dream and the Existing Challenges,” is part of USC’s annual tradition of celebrating MLK Day with a series of service-based events.
"Through this dialogue, we will consider the progress that we have made as a community, areas where we are still struggling and recognize the power that each of our individual voices have evoking the change that we see," Adams said.
The panel opened with a discussion of 2020 events that "shed light on the social injustices that are present throughout our country."
The killing of George Floyd last May marked an "accountability shift" rather than a new occurrence, said Lyric Swinton, the director of Diversity & Inclusion at SC Women In Leadership.
"I think that's the most frustrating thing about George Floyd, is that he wasn't the first," Swinton, a USC alumna, said. "He's nowhere near the first in this long line of black bodies that have fallen due to white supremacy."
Moe Brown, former Democratic nominee for South Carolina's 5th Congressional District, called 2020 the "year of the mirror."
"All of us had to look into the mirror and really deal with self because the reality of our society was right in front of our face," Brown said. "To the point where folks was literally losing their jobs, losing their lives."
Swinton said one of the positives to come out of this year is that she saw more people "activated."
"There is no 'this side' or 'that side' when it comes to basic human rights. There — you're either for it or against it; there is no middle ground. And I think that's what we saw in between the beginning of 2020 and now, the elimination of the middle ground," Swinton said.
Brown said although this year came with many challenges, there were "heroes," too.,
"I think it's easy to get caught up in what we lost, but also focusing on what we learned and how we did come together in places, and focusing on the energy that we can then use to move forward," Brown said.