By: Max Liebel and Liam Cuddy
BUFFALO, N.Y. – From Sept. 20 to 22, SUNY Buffalo hosted the 2018 Buffalo Humanities Festival. Professors and keynote speakers from across the country, including Niagara University’s very own Dr. Doug Tewskbury and Dr. Thomas A. Chambers, gathered to share their findings and thoughts on contemporary revolutions, social movements and the current state of certain societal issues. The topics covered ranged from the erection and deconstruction of monuments, the organization of social movements via social media, and even a speech from New York Times best-selling author, Angie Thomas, who wrote “The Hate U Give.”
Both Chambers and Tewksbury spoke on the final day of the event. Chambers, an associate professor in NU’s history department, held a presentation on the topic of monuments and the current division among people on whether or not to take down certain monuments and how those figures for which monuments are erected are perceived.
Tewksbury, associate professor of media studies and communications at NU, held a discussion called “Social Justice Movements, Social Media, and Best Practices.” The presentation included a forum on the relationship between social justice movements and social media, focusing on how social media has been used heavily as an organizational tool. Niagara Wire staff writer, Liam Cuddy, had a chance to interview Tewsbury about the topics he discussed at the festival:
“I want to discuss how social movements can use social media in order to best achieve their goals,” said Tewksbury. “The talk I’ll be giving is a synthesis of what I’ve been doing over the past 6 years.”
As part of Tewksbury’s research, he flew down to Ferguson during the protests that came in the wake of the killing of Michael Brown.
“I’ve been looking at movements from Occupy Wall Street to Ferguson to online social movements, and the question I’ll be trying to answer is how do they use these tools to better achieve their goals? What are the lessons that other social activists can learn from the things that happened there? What sort of things worked well? What didn’t work so well?”
In addition to Chambers’ and Tewksbury’s presentations, there were many other fascinating speakers at the festival including New York Times best-selling author Angie Thomas.
Thomas held a lecture and Q & A session in regards to her young adult novel “The Hate U Give,” – soon to be a major motion picture. “The Hate U Give” is a story of a young girl named Starr who grew up in an underprivileged neighborhood, but goes to a private school outside her home town. One night, Starr witnesses her childhood friend shot by a police officer and what ensues is a story that defines current social contexts in a very relatable fashion. The novel includes movements like Black Lives Matter and how a tragedy like this can affect a community as well as how movements like the one in the novel are formed.
America faces a time of division on a multitude of social issues. An environment like the one created by the Buffalo Humanities Festival offers hope to activists and academics of all forms that these issues within society are not forgotten among the masses and fosters progressive dialogue for all to engage in.