Human Rights Lecture Series Features Lectures on Black Feminism, Socialism and the Work of Dr. Angela Davis

Starting February 1, San José State University’s Human Rights Institute is kicking off Black History Month by launching a three-part lecture series focusing on the relevance of Black feminism, socialism, and Dr. Angela Davis’s work facing human rights challenges. Events include a documentary watch party on February 1, a teach-in panel on February 9 featuring renowned academics UC Santa Cruz Distinguished Professor and UC Presidential Co-Chair, Feminist Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Bettina Apethker, ’76 MA Mass Communications, historian Barbara Ransby and critical theorist Neferti X.M. Tadiar, and culminate in a keynote address by Dr. Davis on February 11. All events are free to the public and hosted online.

“We want our programming to be meaningful for our students who will be out in the workforce,” said Bill Armaline, director of the Human Rights Institute and associate professor of sociology at SJSU. “That means it needs to speak to real issues that their families and communities face.”

“This is an extraordinary time because we have a woman of color as the vice president of the United States. Our series speaks to this time and connects the deep history of black women as political forces in our country,” said Halima Kazem-Stojanovic, lecturer in journalism and human rights and the journalism coordinator for the Human Rights Institute.

Armaline said that in 2015, the Human Rights Institute (then a “collaborative”) brought together founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, including leaders from organizations like We Charge Genocide (Chicago), M.O.R.E. (Ferguson, MO), and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights (Oakland) with long-time movement leaders like renowned sociologist Harry Edwards, ’64 Social Science, ’16 Honorary Doctorate, for two days of organizing and educational workshops on the SJSU campus around anti-racism and criminal justice reform.

“It was our most successful event in terms of students, panelists and organizers coming together—a lot of community organizing happened as a result,” Armaline said. “This year, we thought what better way to launch the Human Rights Institute than to return to some of these issues and invite Dr. Angela Davis to reflect on the last five years. We’ve seen a rise and explosion of white supremacist organizations throughout the country. Now we’re asking, how do Black feminism, socialism and the work of Dr. Davis give us any guidance about how to grapple with the human rights struggles of our day?”

February 1, 3:30 p.m.: Live Watch Party with Q&A with SJSU Alumna Bettina Aptheker

Live Watch Party

This event will kick off Black History Month and the lecture series with a live watch party of the award-winning documentary, Free Angela and All Political Prisoners, by Shola Lynch (2012). The film details the early life of Dr. Davis as a scholar, political figure, and temporary fugitive who would defend herself in an epic 1972 trial that became an international stage for revolutionary Black feminism. The live watch party will also feature a live Q&A with UC Santa Cruz Distinguished Professor and UC Presidential Co-Chair, Feminist Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Bettina Apethker, ’76 MA Mass Communications, who appears in the film.

February 9, 3 p.m.: Teach-in Panel Discussion: Dr. Angela Davis and the Indispensability of Black Feminism and Socialism in 2021

Teach-In Panel Event
This event features a virtual teach-in panel discussion of Black feminism and socialism by internationally-known scholars, Drs. Barbara Ransby, Bettina Aptheker, ’76 MA Mass Communications, and Neferti X.M. Tadiar. Each guest will present a brief but provocative talk before engaging directly with questions from the viewing audience.

February 11, 5 p.m.: Keynote Address with Dr. Angela Davis

Angela Davis Keynote Address

The culminating event for the SJSU HRI Human Rights Lecture Series features the 2021 keynote human rights lecture from Dr. Angela Davis, distinguished professor emerita of UC Santa Cruz. Dr. Davis spoke at SJSU’s 2015 Annual Lecture, joined by many of the various architects of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Six years later, Dr. Davis returns to discuss the relevance of Black feminism, politics of abolition, and revolutionary praxis to address the human rights challenges of our time. Following the lecture, join for a discussion of how these ideas are shaping political struggles in our region and across the country.


About the Human Rights Institute

The San José State University Human Rights Institute is an organizational research and training unit under the California State University system that specializes in human rights research, journalism, and policy design. HRI students and faculty study pressing social problems and work with community organizations, stakeholders, and policy makers to inform and design solutions according to relevant scholarship, human rights law, and international best practices. Further, the HRI is building the Human Rights News Network—a source of original and relevant human rights reporting from students, faculty, and Institute partners.

Students interested in getting involved with the HRI can do so through enrolling in the Human Rights minor program applying for student internship positions at the HRI, or working with a faculty Human Rights Working Group member on new or ongoing research. To learn more, visit the HRI website.

 

SJSU Launches Human Rights Institute

HRI director W. Armaline with his students that make up the HRI team.

Director William Armaline (far right) with the HRI team.

Formally launched in October 2019, San José State’s Human Rights Institute (HRI) has already been making an impact—and now is poised to do even more.

Years in the making, the HRI recently launched its website offering a world-class policy and research institute’s research, education and praxis, the intersection of policy with action.

Director William Armaline credited numerous faculty and staff members who collaborated to bring the San José State’s Human Rights Institute come to life. “So many people have been critical in building this entire project,” he said.

Armaline said creating the HRI “has really has been sort of my grind and mission since I’ve been at at San José State: Trying to build this—both the minor program, which launched in 2012 out of justice studies—and also a research and policy institute that would go beyond pedagogy and education to actually giving a public university very real roles in the communities we serve.” Armaline said the HRI brings research and frameworks from international human rights and international standards to bear on “social problems that confront the communities that we literally are chartered to serve as a university.”

College of Social Sciences Dean Walt Jacobs said that creating a formal institute had meant navigating a long approval process to win official status. Within the CSU system, research centers tend to spotlight research, which the approval process is designed to prioritize.

“But the HRI is unique,” Jacobs said. “It also has that component of praxis. Which is about teaching action, putting research into action. We had to go through a lot of hoops to get the HRI approved. But we did. And it fits really nicely into the legacy of social justice work that San José State has done throughout its history. It’s a good fit.”

Armaline described his view of how an institute in a public university ought to serve community needs: “We want to answer legitimate questions from the community: ‘If I don’t have kids going to your university or even beyond that, why should we really support it? Why do we need to have it here? Why is it a critical member of our community institutionally?’ And we want to be an answer to that question. We want to be able to say, ‘Because centers of learning are critical for communities to be able to understand the world around them and develop solutions for the problems that they face.’ And also to answer the questions they find interesting and relevant. I think people rightly want direct and pragmatic kinds of answers to those kinds of questions.”

Jacobs said that when Armaline was hired in 2007, his purpose was to build something like the University of Connecticut Human Rights Institute, where Armaline previously worked. Preeminent nationally, even internationally, “they had a very robust program there,” Jacobs said. “Bill was hired in part to establish an institute here on the West Coast that would be very similar to the very successful one on the East Coast.”

A sociologist by profession, Armaline moved to the sociology department from the justice studies department, where he was hired in 2007. Doing the work, demonstrating results and setting up the structure of the HRI have consumed almost a decade of his life—along with the many other projects and initiatives he’s engaged in (not to mention teaching).

HRI faculty members include award-winning authors, educators and journalists who partner with SJSU’s extremely diverse student body—as well as organizations across the region—to inform policy and practice according to international human rights law, standards and scholarship. For example, since 2012 the HRI has offered an undergraduate minor to students who want to add training in international human rights law or human rights reporting/journalism and advocacy to their field of study.

After receiving official approval as a research center in October, the HRI has been preparing for the public launch of its website amid the months of the 2020 COVID-19 restrictions.

“One of the requirements is that the center or institute has to have a plan for self-sufficiency within two years,” Jacobs said. “As a college, we’ve been supporting them as they’ve been in the planning process. But a big part of their efforts will be to raise funds to keep going. I’ll also be helping too, as we go out and talk to donors about places we can help support them.”

Armaline highlighted the importance of connecting international human rights research with the lived experience of Californians right here in SJSU’s neighborhood. For him, tying scholarship to immediate, real-world problems is at the core of the mission: “We dedicate ourselves as a research and policy institute to study and understand the problems that confront us—the local community but also the national and global community. And then really work with those communities and other stakeholders and decision makers to develop the best possible solutions.”

Support the Human Rights Institute

Beyond supporting human rights education and research, contributors can support the HRI’s new Human Rights News Network, which includes human rights reporting classes where students will develop original news content, report on the HRI’s research and action, and learn to use human rights laws, conventions, monitoring mechanisms and data in news stories. The HRI has already received gifts that will support student scholarships, and seeks additional support to further the institution’s path to self-sufficiency as an institute advancing research and action on human rights. Learn more about the Human Rights Institute and how you can support its work.