A planned lecture at Webster University by major activists in the Black Lives Matter movement was cancelled due to threats made against the speakers, movement co-founder Alicia Garza said.
Garza was one of four scheduled speakers at the event, which also included other founders, Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors, and international movement ambassador Janaya Khan. Webster announced on Feb. 22 that the event, which was sponsored by the Multicultural and International Student Association (MCISA), had been cancelled at the request of the speakers’ agent.
Representatives from MCISA declined to comment on why the event was cancelled.
In an email, Garza shared her official statement on why the event was cancelled. Her full statement is below.
“Earlier this week, Opal and I canceled a keynote address at Webster University in St. Louis, due to threats and online attacks on our organization and us as individuals from local activists with whom we have made an effort to have meaningful dialogue.
The emotional impact of the attacks has prompted us to cancel other scheduled speaking events this week to take some time to care for ourselves.
Like the students at Webster, we are disappointed. We all lose when bullying and personal attacks become a substitute for genuine conversation and principled disagreement. Opal and I are committed to disagreeing with dignity, and won’t resort to online or offline harassing or shaming behavior. We know you understand.
We also know that many of you have spent time and energy designing and promoting these events for students on your campuses, and we appreciate and honor your commitment.
Ultimately, the result of these threats and online attacks is that students who are hungry to learn about Black Lives Matter and how to engage meaningfully in the movement are denied the opportunity to do so. This, we also take seriously, and we are working with your campus to reschedule these events before the end of the school year.”
Corey Hawkins, MCISA’s minority student coordinator, said on Monday the threats were nothing related to Webster students, staff or faculty.
Hawkins said MCISA is working to reschedule the event and would still like to bring the activists to campus.
Garza, Tometi and Cullors started the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag which sparked a movement against police brutality and has been used in St. Louis in response to the shooting of Michael Brown by former police officer Darren Wilson. The lecture was part of a schedule of events focused on African-American community issues during Black History Month.