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“The Stories We Tell” a community discussion of the shared history of Black student activism at UW


The Wisconsin Black Student Union (WBSU), the Division of Diversity, Equity, & Educational Achievement (DDEEA), and the Black Cultural Center (BCC) will host “The Stories We Tell: Sharing Black Activism Experiences at UW-Madison” this afternoon, a panel discussion with UW-Madison alumni and current students about their activism during their time as students at the UW.  

The event takes place 4:30-6 pm at the Wisconsin Historical Society, 816 State Street, across from Memorial Union. First Wave students will also be performing and using their art to explore their stories and examine activism on campus. 

This event is in collaboration with the Public History Project, a multi-year effort to uncover and give voice to those who experienced, challenged, and overcame prejudice on UW-Madison’s campus, led by Kacie Lucchini Butcher, director of the Public History Project at UW-Madison. 

“As we’ve looked at the Public History Project, what we’ve realized is that there is one thing that’s consistent about time and student activism,” said Lucchini Butcher. “And that’s kind of how it was like born. After chatting about this, we start talking about the Black Student Union, Black Cultural Center, and the DDEEA. And we kind of came up with this idea to really have a kind of twofold event.

“The first part of the event is going to be a presentation of the history of Black student activism at the UW,” Butcher continues. “And then the second part is going to be a panel discussion between current and recent activists, as well as alumni activists. Certainly, to talk about some of that continuity over time, but also to connect. I think there’s really a lot of power in connecting those activists together.”

This conversation is a community discussion to expose the shared history of Black students at UW and to connect activism in the past to present efforts that will initiate change. The panel will include UW-Madison alumni: Hazel Symonette (MS ’72, Ph.D.’91) Geneva Brown (’88, JD ’93), Kaleem Caire (’00), and Payton Wade (’20). Current students on the panel include Michael Davis, Robin Robinson and Terjuan Short. Lucchini Butcher will also be a part of the conversation. 

“I think the panel is going to be the best part,” said Lucchini Butcher. “I’m so excited to hear the stories and you look, in some time, right history in a way. And I’m excited to hear people talk about their experiences, and how that felt, and some of the more emotive things that don’t come out in history books.

“But I’m also really excited to share this story of Black student activism on campus. I only have 20 minutes to present, but you could write a book on Black activism at UW,” she adds. “I’ve tried to be really clear about what protests I’m going to cover and what activism I’m going to cover. But there’s so much. I’m really looking forward to talking about all the different ways activism for Black students comes out across time at UW.”

This panel provides spaces for current Black students and Black alumni of the UW-Madison to talk about their experiences as student activists. It is important for these conversations to be had to understand the campus history. Along with the work being done with the Public History Project, this conversation will allow alumni and current students to talk about how they’ve dealt with racism, discrimination, and finding community and solace, over the last 50 years. 

“I’m really hoping that current Black students, current students of color, current students who are organizing for many, many different reasons on campus, will have the opportunity to see how their struggles are connected to historic struggles,” said Lucchini Butcher. “And to see that they’re not alone. And that as much as the university feels like it’s the same, change has been made. Some of the best things about this campus are directly related to students of color demanding that things get better.”


To register for the event, click here.  For more information about the Public History Project, visit https://publichistoryproject.wisc.edu/