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“The Struggle for the People’s King” at the AAMLO
October 14 @ 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Join us on Saturday, October 14, from 2-4 PM, at the African American Museum and Library at Oakland for an important community conversation. Dr. Hajar Yazdiha, Assistant Professor of Sociology at USC, along with Zach Norris, organizer and former Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center, and Bamidele Agbasegbe Demerson, Chief Curator of AAMLO, will be discussing their work as it relates to Dr. Yazdiha’s book The Struggle for the People’s King: How Politics Transforms the Memory of the Civil Rights Movement.
About the Book:
In the post–civil rights era, wide-ranging groups have made civil rights claims that echo those made by Black civil rights activists of the 1960s, from people with disabilities to women’s rights activists and LGBTQ coalitions. Increasingly since the 1980s, white, right-wing social movements, from family values coalitions to the alt-right, now claim the collective memory of civil rights to portray themselves as the newly oppressed minorities. The Struggle for the People’s King reveals how, as these powerful groups remake collective memory toward competing political ends, they generate offshoots of remembrance that distort history and threaten the very foundations of multicultural democracy.
In the revisionist memories of white conservatives, gun rights activists are the new Rosa Parks, antiabortion activists are freedom riders, and antigay groups are the defenders of Martin Luther King’s Christian vision. Drawing on a wealth of evidence ranging from newspaper articles and organizational documents to television transcripts, press releases, and focus groups, Hajar Yazdiha documents the consequential reimagining of the civil rights movement in American political culture from 1980 to today. She shows how the public memory of King and civil rights has transformed into a vacated, sanitized collective memory that evades social reality and perpetuates racial inequality.
Powerful and persuasive, The Struggle for the People’s King demonstrates that these oppositional uses of memory fracture our collective understanding of who we are, how we got here, and where we go next.
About the Author:
Hajar Yazdiha is an Assistant Professor of Sociology, faculty affiliate of the Equity Research Institute, and a CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar (2023-2025). Dr. Yazdiha received her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and is a former Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow and Turpanjian Postdoctoral Fellow of the Chair in Civil Society and Social Change. Dr. Yazdiha’s research examines the mechanisms underlying the politics of inclusion and exclusion as they shape ethno-racial identities, intergroup relations, and political culture. In addition to award-winning articles, she is the author of the new book, The Struggle for the People’s King: How Politics Transforms the Memory of the Civil Rights Movement (Princeton University Press). Through her research, Dr. Yazdiha works to understand how systems of inequality become entrenched and how groups develop strategies to resist, contest, and manifest alternative futures.
About Bamidele Agbasegbe Demerson:
Bamidele Agbasegbe Demerson serves as the Chief Curator of the African American Museum and Library at Oakland (AAMLO). Demerson received his undergraduate and graduate training in cultural anthropology at his alma mater, the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. He also earned the M.A. degree in Museum Studies from Southern University at New Orleans. His fieldwork in Nigeria (West Africa), Brazil (South America), and Southern United States (North America) serves as the focus for his conference presentations, publications, and exhibitions. Demerson’s research examines three areas: African American culture history; comparative Black family organization, kinship, and land tenure; and cultural identity as reflected in visual arts of Africa and the African diaspora. The author of Black American Strip Quilts and Their West African Textile Roots (in press), Demerson has taught at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor and Southern University at New Orleans.
About Zachary Norris:
Zach Norris is an Open Society Foundations Fellow working on a book about the root causes and solutions of family separation. He is the former Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, author of Defund Fear: Safety Without Policing, Prisons, and Punishment, and co-founder of Restore Oakland, a community advocacy and training center that will empower Bay Area community members to transform local economic and justice systems and make a safe and secure future possible for themselves and their families. Zach is also a co-founder of Justice for Families, a national alliance of family-driven organizations working to end youth incarceration.
As an organizer, artist, writer, and strategist, Zach works with others to produce a just transition that would create a regenerative and restorative economy and society.