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#Ferguson2MLA: Planned action at MLA

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    Lenora Hanson



    Since August 2014, we have witnessed the most sustained, widespread grassroots activism against anti-Black racism and police brutality in the U.S. since the 1960s and 1970s. Through teach-ins, community gatherings, marches, and die-ins, and by taking actions to halt “business as usual” — blocking highways, bridges, and access to malls and other spaces — Black people and other people of color have taken the lead in challenging the status quo. Their voice is clear: end racist police murders and fundamentally transform the justice system that favors and facilitates this violence. The current state of things cannot continue.

    We are planning an action at MLA, first and foremost, to bring together all colleagues who stand in solidarity with these ongoing struggles. We affirm that #BlackLivesMatter. We are angered by the state’s complete disregard for Black lives — quite visible in these murders of Black women and men and the impunity of the cops who killed them. But this devaluation is also structural: it is present in the continued denial of economic justice and the limited access to education, healthcare, housing, and other social goods. As a group of mostly US academics, in addition, we seek to make links to local activists in Vancouver, including indigenous rights groups in their struggle against state violence.

    Secondly, this action contributes to debates in the MLA about involvement in politics. We affirm that the time is now for scholars to connect our research and teaching with real struggles in the world. We can no longer be silent. We cannot tacitly sanction the status quo that has allowed our colleges, universities, and professional organizations to become increasingly segregated along racial lines even as African American, Africana, and ethnic studies departments and programs have fallen victim to the “crisis” in the academy. It’s time to decide whether we actually will make our universities and our disciplines open and accessible to Black people and other people of color, or whether we will simply reflect and contribute to the segregation and accelerating inequalities around us.

    The #Ferguson2MLA action aims to open space for such a dialogue, and to share resources for academics to get involved in the ongoing movements on their own campuses and in their own cities.

    We invite people of all backgrounds to participate in and shape the event. We believe very strongly that Black people and other people of color ought to be central and visible at every step of the process and at the event itself. Please help spread the word. And if you know of other similar actions that have been planned at MLA, we would love to coordinate with these efforts.

    In solidarity,

    #Ferguson2MLA Planning Committee

    – – – – –

    What: Solidarity action and speakout at the Modern Language Association (MLA) 2015 convention in Vancouver, BC

    Where: Vancouver Convention Center. Exact location TBD.

    When: 1:30 pm, Friday, January 9.

    Confirmed Speakers:

    Dr. Koritha Mitchell, Associate Professor of African American Literature, Ohio State University

    Dr. Pranav Jani, Associate Professor of English, Ohio State University

    Dominick Derek Rolle, PhD Candidate, English, Emory University

    Who: The #Ferguson2MLA Planning Committee is an ad-hoc committee of graduate students, lecturers, and faculty in literary and cultural studies. Inspired by the solidarity actions of other academic, legal, and medical associations, we wanted to make our contribution to the #BlackLivesMatter movement as scholars of literature, culture, writing, and the humanities.

    Please contact Pranav Jani (jani.4@osu.edu), Adam Miyashiro (adam.miyashiro@stockton.e<wbr />du), Roopika Risam (rrisam@salemstate.edu), or Lenora Hanson (lahanson3@wisc.edu) for more information or to get involved.

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