The Klein College of Media and Communication hosted a lecture from Marc Lamont Hill, a media studies and production professor, on his two newest books, “We Still Here: Pandemic, Policing, Protest and Possibility” and “Except for Palestine: The Limits of Progressive Politics,” in the college’s Graduate Speaker Series on March 5. More than 100 students, faculty and staff attended.
“Except for Palestine” is a nonfiction book that argues the progressive wing in the U.S. has refused to advocate for the human rights of Palestinians. It was released on February 16, 2021.
“We Still Here” is a collection of interviews and two essays that examines the social and political conditions that led to the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020. The book was released on November 10, 2020.
“We Still Here” was released 15 days after Philadelphia police officers shot and killed Walter Wallace Jr., a Black man in West Philadelphia, while he was having a mental health crisis.
Officers shot Wallace when he did not drop a knife he was holding, the New York Times reported.
Wallace’s mother was present at the scene and attempted to diffuse the situation before the police shot, ABC News reported.
The book is an abolitionist text rooted in a vision and politics of abolition, Hill said.
Abolition is a social movement calling for the elimination of police departments and reallocation of municipal budgets toward health care, housing, education, employment and other social programs, according to Montclair State University.
In the lecture, Hill mentioned that abolition has been a movement with a long history in the United States, like its relation to slavery, and has recently expanded in relation to police and prisons since the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed by Minneapolis police in May 2020.
An abolitionist’s imagination asks what the world would look like if there were institutions designed to meet Walter Wallace’s mental health needs, Hill said.
Involving the police in a situation doesn’t create an opportunity for communities to learn together, said Ketterick Waddell, a first-year media studies and production graduate student who attended the discussion.
“All we’re doing is creating victims and, I guess, you know, bolstering or contributing to the prison industrial complex,” Waddell added.
The prison industrial complex describes the profit-driven relationship between the government, the private companies that build, manage, supply, and service prisons, and related groups as the cause of increased incarceration rates especially of poor people and minorities, according to Merriam Webster.
After the event, Rosie Aquila, a communication for development and social change graduate student, wants to continue thinking about difficult questions surrounding abolition, she said.
Interrogating systems of oppression makes it hard to hold onto a sense of optimism, but, to be an abolitionist, it’s important to have hope, Aquila said.
To defeat organized power, like causes of poverty, racism, anti-semitism, it’s important to organize against it, Hill said. Students should find ways to be a part of a larger community rather than attempting to create their own organizations, he added.
Hill’s stance on structured organization is something Waddell believes more people should be aware of.
“There are some benefits to activism through social media, but the best way to really enact change and be a part of a movement or be involved is to get involved with activists and organizations,” Waddell said.
For Aquila, it is important that Temple students think about their place in the world and in relation to capitalism.
“Look at things like a pandemic and how it has disproportionately harmed Black and brown folks, policing and how that also is a system that we’ve become like normalized to, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” Aquila said.
“Except for Palestine,” is a call for the American political left to extend their politics to the Israel-Palestine conflict, according to The News Press.
The Israel-Palestine conflict refers to the ongoing tensions between the Palestinian people living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and Israel that have resulted in multiple military engagements since 1948, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.
In the book, Hill and his co-author Mitchell Plitnick, president of ReThinking Foreign Policy and frequent writer on the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy, examine the emergence of boycotts as a protest tactic and the human rights disasters seen in the Gaza Strip, Hill said.
The book begins by saying that as Americans and non-Israelis, non-Palestinians, it’s not up to Hill and Plitnick to decide what the future of the region is, Hill said. That is up to the people in the region to decide, he added.
“Our only goal is to create a world of lasting and enduring peace where Jews and Arabs, where Israelis and Palestinians can both live in safety, peace, dignity, justice and self-determination,” Hill added.