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Q&A to feature Black Lives Matter co-founder

by Luanne Williams

“I have always felt like I want to change the course of history. I was in awe of previous black liberation struggle leaders: Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells. I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself.” – Opal Tometi in Time magazine.

Headshot of Russell Dedrick

One of three founders of Black Lives Matter, Opal Tometi will bring her message of activism to Wingate University on April 23 during a question-and-answer session hosted by Dedrick Russell, WBTV’s executive producer for digital content. The event, set for 7 p.m. in the Batte Center’s McGee Theatre, is free and open to the public.

A globally recognized human-rights advocate and strategist, Tometi is the executive director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, a nonprofit founded in 2006 to help African American and black immigrant communities combat immigration bills being considered in Congress. BAJI continues to engage communities to advocate for racial, social and economic justice.

“I could see that our communities were vulnerable, yet we didn’t have the organizing capacity or the tools to address the issues: being profiled, being discriminated against in the workplace,” Tometi has said. “When I was introduced to BAJI, I was like, ‘Yes, I finally get to use my experience to support my community.’”

Of Nigerian-American descent, Tometi has been active in social movements for 15 years and has worked for BAJI since 2011. She is best known for her role with BLM.

Sparked by the February 2012 fatal shooting of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and the subsequent acquittal of his shooter, the movement was started by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Tometi. What began as a #BlackLivesMatter online campaign has grown into a member-led, global network of more than 40 chapters. The movement has also shifted from protests toward policy work.

As her impact on society has been recognized, Tometi has had the rare privilege of addressing the United Nations General Assembly. She’s appeared on CNN, MSNBC and BET, and her writings have been published in Time, InStyle Magazine, Seventeen and the Huffington Post.

Tometi was a 2018 recipient of the VH1 Everyday Trailblazer honor and was also named among the Frederick Douglass 200. A graduate of the University of Arizona, she holds a bachelor of arts in history and a master of arts in communication and advocacy.

The April 23 Q&A session at Wingate is sponsored by the University’s Office of Lyceum and Multicultural Programming. Russell, the event moderator, is from Washington, D.C., where he reported on George W. Bush's first presidential inauguration, the 9-11 terrorist attacks and the Washington area sniper incidents. He has spent much of his career in the Carolinas and has worked for WBTV since 2003.

April 9, 2019

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