2nd Annual Parren Mitchell Symposium

"Intellectual Activism, Social Justice, & Criminalization"


  1. On Tuesday, April 28, 2015, after months of organizing and planning, the Critical Race Initiative (CRI) presented its 2nd Annual Parren Mitchell Symposium at the University of Maryland, College Park. While we were excited to bring together a group of notable scholars and activists, we continued to feel the weight of our contemporary social movement. It was the #BlackLivesMatter movement and the perpetual systematic violence against Black bodies that spurred this year's symposium theme: "Intellectual Activism, Social Justice, & Criminalization."
  2. After a short welcome by Dr. Rashawn Ray, Assistant Professor of Sociology and CRI Advisor, the first panel, "Intellectual Activism in 21st Century America: Ethics, Technology, and Constraints," began. Dr. Ruth Zambrana, Director of the Consortium on Race, Gender and Ethnicity, moderated the discussion by a group of scholars including: Dr. Philip Cohen (Professor of Sociology, UMD), Kevin Winstead (PhD Student in American Studies, UMD), Dr. Eric Grollman (Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Richmond), Dr. Neil Fraistat (Professor of English and Director of Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities, UMD), Dr. Brittney Cooper (Assistant Professor of Women's and Gender Studies and Africana Studies, Rutgers University), and Dr. R.L'Heureux Lewis-McCoy (Associate Professor, City College of New York).
  3. The panel began with questions about intellectual activism and social media's role in activism and the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
  4. The panelists then turned attention to why we do race-centered work and the pitfalls of celebrity intellectualism and Black exceptionalism.
  5. While some brought up speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves as a reason for acadmic activism, Dr. Lewis-McCoy brought up the broader connection, asking:
  6. Another important question that was raised was:
  7. Not only did panelists see a need for shifting the conceptualization of activism and activists, Dr. Cooper pointed out another crucial shift to be made. . .