Class Discussion: International Exchange on Black Lives Matter


“Social Movements” taught by Professor Sandra McEvoy examines contexts where legislative attempts for change fail and grassroots movements emerge to influence change. Students critically examine movements such as the uprisings in Egypt, LGBT movements and the US civil rights movement.

This semester my Social Movements class was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to host a group of visiting Australian students and have a dialogue focused on Black Lives Matter. We meet at our regular class time and had a conversation facilitated by our professor, Dr. Sandy McEvoy. To start, we all simply began by introducing ourselves, including information such as what we are studying, our future plans, and what it is like living in our given areas of the world. It was clear that everyone was enjoying getting to know each other as the room did not stay silent for a minute! I have always found an interest in learning about the nuances between cultures, such as how the education system in Australia differs from ours here in the U.S. After 10-15 minutes of getting to know each other a bit better, we transitioned into our main topic for the day: Black Lives Matter.

Black Lives Matter (BLM) has been a topic of interest for a while now, both nationally and here at Wheelock. In terms of our class, we had been studying it as a potential social movement and were excited to continue the discussion with an international group. The majority of the group had heard about BLM and were ready to talk. It was interesting to see that many of the Australian students had similar thoughts and questions to those of the American students. We also discussed issues contributing to the movement such as police brutality, the criminal justice system, and racism. We also shared ideas on laws and policy making as systematical barriers but with the potential to be the pathway for solutions.

The opportunity to discuss current issues such as this one with an international group was a great learning experience. Not only were we able to learn about other cultures and social policies, but we were also able to see the widespread impact of issues occurring within the U.S. This is important because as Wheelock students we hope to help solve these issues occurring across the nation, and the answers may potential lie within another country. If we can use other countries as example, and see what they are doing right, we can use that knowledge to help shape the policies and reforms that are needed to help better our country.

In Sandra McEvoy’s Social Movements class, we have had many opportunities for interdisciplinary learning, thought-provoking conversation, and both personal and academic growth. One of these opportunities came when Sarah Taylor presented to our class. Sarah Taylor is a (super awesome) woman who is currently working for Human Rights Watch (HRW) as the Women, Peace, and Security Advocate of the women’s rights division. She focuses on, you guessed it, women, peace, and security concerns in specific country situations. Before her current position at HRW she was the Executive Coordinator of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, a coalition of NGOs that holds the UN Security Council accountable to it’s obligations on women’s rights.

Sarah described to us what exactly her job entails and went over many of the aspects we have discussed in class pertaining to social movements. Our class was curious how she and her colleagues measured success, dealt with conflict both internally and externally, and made sure each project kept on track with the overarching goal of the organization. Sarah also spoke about the importance of amplifying the voices of the women they are helping and not speaking for them. This is an idea that comes up in many classes throughout Wheelock, as the majority of students are planning to enter a helping profession. We often talk about the importance of working with as opposed to for a client. Sarah reminded our class that this is something that is not easily done and is something we must consciously be aware of while working in our chosen professions.

Personally, the opportunity to meet and listen to Sarah Taylor was inspiring. As a senior, I am beginning to think about how I will want to apply my political science degree, and meeting Sarah not only gave me ideas for my future but also a belief that I too can do cool, meaningful, important work like her!


DaniDanielle Spivackelle Spivack has double majors in Psychology and Political Science and Global Studies. She is from Abington, MA.