From a mountain of despair, a stone of hope. — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Thoughtfulness. Reflection. Action. These were the central themes of Stones of Hope: Non-violent Activism Built on Legacy and Hope, USF’s fifth annual Critical Diversity Studies (CDS) Forum, held on campus on September 25, 2015. The theme was chosen from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s famous words and was informed by these questions:
- How do social actors manage to stand up to huge social problems?
- What sustains their practice?
- How do they know when to employ tools from past struggles?
- How do we avail ourselves of new tools born of necessity and a moral imagination?
The Museum Studies Department was proud to co-sponsor this important day, along with USF’s Departments of Computer Science, Performing Arts and Sociology. A dynamic and inspirational panel featuring artists, activists and museum professionals spoke before a standing-room only audience. We thank performers Idris Ackamoor and Rhodessa Jones, activist and author Jeff Chang, actor and activist Danny Glover, and Nicole Lim, (Pomo) Executive Director of the California Indian Museum & Cultural Center who shared perspectives on how to “hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.”
Art, they agreed, is an important part of inspiring social change, because art — whether it is jazz music, hiphop, film or visual expression — is about values.
The speakers emphasized how important it is to know and learn from history, presenting a vigorous argument about why museums, as keepers and advancers of cultural ideas, are important in the fight for social justice.
“We are all born into some kind of historical context,” actor Danny Glover told us, as he reflected on one of his first jobs — delivering newspapers on the USF campus as a teenager and always taking time to read the headlines and reflect on the matters of the day. These stories influenced him to become involved in Civil Rights in the 1960s and continue to speak out today. “Martin Luther King, Jr. was a product of others’ ideas and so are we,” Glover reminded us. “King was deeply influenced by thinkers who came before him like Eugene Debs and W. E. B. duBois. He read a great deal and thought a great deal about how to find his voice and make a difference.”
“When we think about today’s grave injustices like Ferguson, the prison-industrial complex, and extreme challenges like xenophobia, climate change and inequity, we have to remember their historical context and keep trying to change things.”
Citing positive examples like Los Angeles’ community policing initiative, Glover reminded us that as we continue the struggle for social good, “it is important to stay buoyant and hopeful.”