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Black Power to #BlackLivesMatter: Documenting decades of struggle to end racism, violence, and prejudice.

September 19, 2016

This fall, two new UTSA Special Collections exhibits connect the past to the present. Archival materials from the Mario Marcel Salas papers and contemporary student works reveal the continuum of discourse that has evolved around racism, violence, and social injustice from the 1960s to the present. Headlines from a 1969 Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) resonate as echoes from the past that mirror the headlines of today. “No justice for Black People,” “what shall I tell my children who are black?” “BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL” foreshadows #BlackLivesMatter.

UTSA students Alexis McGee and Hernan Paz, whose work is featured in the Special Collections exhibits, created their projects for Professor Sonja Lanehart’s course

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#BlackLivesMatter panel by Alexis McGee, Downtown Library exhibit

#BlackLivesMatter: Critical Perspectives. “The goal of the class is to critically examine the sociocultural and historical contexts of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.” Through the analysis of literary, research, and multimedia texts, students gain theoretical grounding in Critical Race Theory, Whiteness Studies, Critical Discourse Analysis, AfroFuturuism, AfroPessismism and Critical Visual Analysis. A community panel of activists and experts provide historical context for San Antonio, Texas’ and U.S. “engagement in racial and social injustice and violence against Black and Brown peoples.”

Alexis Mcgee designed the #BlackLivesMatter panel on display at the Downtown Library. Images and bios of African Americans killed by police confront the viewer. Mcgee points out these are “only a portion” of those lives lost to prejudice, racism, and violence. The JPL exhibit features an etching by Hernan Paz entitled, “The New Jim Crow.” Paz explains the meaning of the piece which is accompanied by a torn copy of the 1994 Crime Bill:  “The 1994 Crime Bill was proposed and passed as a bill that would target the “rise of crime” that was occurring but instead lead to mass incarcerations,

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“The New Jim Crow” etching by Hernan Paz, JPL exhibit

of which the LARGE MAJORITY of that population was African American males. And once you’re in the system, it’s over, because the New Jim Crow has already taken you. The New Jim Crow is in reference to the fact the Penal System as it is now is a way to target minorities who step out of white supremacy ideal.”

In each exhibit, print materials and photographs from the Salas collection provide historical context for the #BlackLivesMatter content and invite the observer to reflect on how the objects in the exhibit relate and what emotions and questions they evoke. Both exhibits will remain up throughout the fall semester.

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