By Elizabeth Halvorson
Trimiko Melancon, an award-winning author and director of the 2020 Film “What Do You Have to Lose? Unpacking America’s Political Landscape” gave a virtual lecture Oct. 6 in collaboration with GRCC’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and GRCC’s Fannie Lou Hamer Colloquium.
Melancon, a Michigan State University professor of African American and African studies, delivered a 30-minute speech based on her documentary on America’s political landscape and the racial injustices that people of color face. Melancon included clips from American voting and women’s rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer’s testimony of her experiences with white supremacy, as well as the recount of her brutal treatment in the Winona jailhouse, in front of the Credentials Committee in 1964.
Throughout her speech, Melancon highlighted systemic issues that African Americans and other people of color have faced and continue to face in America.
“Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 27, 2021, 19 states enacted 33 new laws to curtail and obstruct voting rights which would make it harder for Americans to vote,” Melancon said.
“We cannot part our lips to suggest there is no legacy of slavery, or political or institutionalized disparities, racism or inequalities as such circumstances are barely out of the room of our initial destinations per the rearview mirror,” she continued. “In my documentary, ‘What do you have to lose?,’ is a narrative we tell ourselves in this country that things are always getting better, and we pass this off as history but as a chronology of the successive victories, moral victories, military victories, and so on. But in the selected version, we never talk about the backlash… social progress for minorities is very slow.”
When addressing her acceptance of the invitation to speak during this years’ Diversity Lecture Series, Melancon revealed it was not without difficulty.
“The task of preparing some remarks, the deceptively simple proposition has, in actuality, been the opposite,” Melancon said. “It has been neither simple nor has it been marked with ease and why? You might wonder. I myself did and especially for scholarly professors, such as myself, who writes and lectures this is what I, we, as professors, do. That should have been as though one might surmise and so in crafting this and unpacking America’s political landscape or the nexus of race, politics, and perseverance in the U.S., not only historically, but currently forces one to confront and grapple with an uncomfortable paradigm shift.”
The “What Do You Have to Lose?” trailer can be viewed here.
ODEI’s Diversity Lecture Series continues on Monday, Oct. 11, with a presentation by Bri Sérráno, a scholar of intersectional transgender studies and the theoretical framework of Critical Trans Politics.