Dozens filled the seats of Lee Hall Auditorium to celebrate guest speaker Brittany “Bree” Newsome at the 8th annual Spring Literary Forum Series in honor of Black History Month hosted by Florida A&M University’s Department of English and Modern Languages on Feb. 25.
Newsome, 31-year-old filmmaker and winner of an Audience Choice Award, screened her surreal short film “Wake” before moving the crowd with her motivating dialogue.
According to a review from Colorlines.com, “The film puts a fresh new lens on respected Southern voo-doo traditions, and speaks volumes about Newsome’s conceptual vision.”
The audience sat patiently as Newsome pulled up visual elements to assist her with her speech and asked for all to participate in a “collective breathing exercise.”
“This helps me because I’m always nervous before I speak, but also it is a demonstration in the difference between conscious and unconscious. What happened in that moment when we focused on our breath, we became aware of what was there all along,” Newsome said.
She continued with reference to the time we are babies.
“As we grow, as we interact with society, we are socialized with thought patterns, beliefs, customs and social roles often unconsciously,” Newsome said. “So what does it mean to be conscious?”
Kirra Martin, fourth-year FAMU broadcast journalism student from Tampa, said being conscious is to be informed.
“To be conscious is to be socially and politically enlightened. Having social conscious is important, especially in today’s time; you have to know what’s going on around you,” Martin said.
Newsome acknowledged she is a black woman but believes she’s more than a social construct.
“I’m aware I am a black woman, but I’m also aware that race, as it is understood in the United States, is a social construct with no real basis and biology,” she said.
During the rest of her moving lecture, she revealed the drive for scaling down the Confederate flag in Columbia, S.C.
“I was excited to be a part of the ‘new movement for black lives,’ part of a cause much greater than myself: to help carry forward to the anarchy for freedom, equality and justice,” she said.
For those with inquiries on what it would take fight systemic placement of African-Americans on the totem pole, Bree Newsome had an answer.
“Divert dreams will not sustain us as a society. The only thing that will sustain us is the co-active work of dismantling the current system of oppression and exploitation in favor of systems, laws and ways of being that firm human rights and respect for living earth,” she said.
Newsome summed up her speech with a list of goals that must be met in the African-American community: sustainable organizations, economic and political infrastructure, indigenous leadership development, mass popular political education, healthcare and healing spaces, and most importantly, faith.
Fourth-year public relations student from Jacksonville Vonkeisha Gibson said she was inspired and aspired to fill Newsome’s shoes.
“I love her and appreciate her courage. Hopefully, one day I can fill her shoes,” Gibson said.
The theme of this year’s forum is Afra-Retroism and the American South and will continue on FAMU’s campus until Friday, Feb. 26.