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Patrisse Cullors of Black Lives Matters Gives GVSU Keynote

Jess Weal
GVSU Communications

“What have you done to save Black lives?”

That’s the question that Patrisse Cullors, activist and founder of Black Lives Matter asked a capacity audience at Grand Valley State University’s Kirkhof Center. She was there as one of two keynote speakers during the Martin Luther King Jr commemoration week to which the theme was “Activate your activism.” Now, to answer what someone has done to save black lives, one has to ask whether black lives, that is, black Americans, really need saving. Cullors’s answer:

“We all remember Treyvon Martin, a 17-year-old walking in his neighborhood. Going home with a bag of skittles an iced tea. And he was stocked, he was hunted, and he was shot, and he was killed.”

Jesse Bernal is the Vice President of Inclusion and Equity at Grand Valley State University. Cullors’s work, Bernal said, makes her the ideal person to give keynote for the MLK events. But he said even this week is part of a bigger perspective at GVSU.

“This extends beyond just the conversation about race and racial inequality and racism, it connects with all forms of marginalization. And that’s key to who we are at Grand Valley and we’re trying to make sure that that’s the message we send out and how we educate our students, faculty, and staff.” 

Mariano Avila is WGVU's inclusion reporter. He has made a career of bringing voices from the margins to those who need to hear them. Over the course of his career, Mariano has written for major papers in English and Spanish, published in magazines, worked in broadcast, and produced short films, commercials, and nonprofit campaigns. He also briefly served at a foreign consulate, organized for international human rights efforts and has done considerable work connecting marginalized people to religious, educational, and nonprofit institutions through the power of story.
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