Najja K. Baptist and Lisa Gilbert - We Who Believe in Freedom: The Black Politics of Elaine, Arkansas

As part of the Pryor Center Presents lecture series, Dr. Najja K. Baptist and Elaine Mayor Lisa Gilbert will present "We Who Believe in Freedom: The Black Politics of Elaine, Arkansas" at 6 p.m. Thurs., Feb. 22, at the David and Barbara Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History in the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. The event is sponsored by the Department of Political Science, African and African American Studies program, and Gamma Eta Chapter of Omega Psi Phi.

This fireside chat between Gilbert, founder of the Descendants of the Elaine Massacre of 1919 (DOEM1919), and Baptist, a professor of Black politics, will be a deeply engaging and thought-provoking discussion. The conversation will delve into the history of the tragic Elaine Massacre and its lasting impact on the community of Elaine. Gilbert will share her personal journey, recounting her transition from being an organizer and community activist to assuming the role of mayor. The speakers will explore the challenges and triumphs currently facing the community, reflecting on the historical significance of the massacre and the ongoing efforts to promote healing, justice, and empowerment. The fireside chat will provide a platform for meaningful dialogue, fostering a greater understanding of the past and present experiences of the Elaine community.

Baptist is assistant professor of political science at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. He is a three-time HBCU graduate, earning his doctorate in political science from Howard University. Baptist's work has appeared on CNN and in numerous journals, such as National Political Science Review, Journal of Race and Ethnicity, Politics, Groups, and Identities, and other outlets. His work primarily focuses on what shapes political choice. Baptist is also a two-time NSF grant awardee. He is the founding director of the University Advance Research Team, which trains students at the University of Arkansas and five other universities, including two HBCUs. Baptist is the director of the African and African American Studies at the University of Arkansas. His forthcoming book with NYU Press, In the Spirit, In the Dark: Black Music and Activism, examines how citizens use music to understand politics.

A social justice activist, writer, and poet in her native Elaine, Gilbert founded the DOEM1919 in 2020 to honor and preserve the stories of the victims, survivors, and descendants of the Elaine Massacre. She also serves as Volunteer Program Manager at Lee Street Community Center, overseeing programs aimed at addressing many disparities and injustices including housing, health, food insecurity, and education. In 2022, Gilbert ran for mayor with a focus on enhancing the quality of life for all residents by creating an inclusive, safe, and equitable community. She was elected to a four-year term, becoming the first Black mayor and first elected female mayor of Elaine.

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