In a world filled with news headlines on social injustices and protests, the oral accounts of such events can lend more to the audience than written instances can. That is where Wesley Lowery, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist comes in, as he is also the next speaker to be featured as a part of the Frontier Forum Lecture Series today at 7 p.m. in the Marshall Student Center Oval Theater.
Lowery’s stories have been featured in The Washington Post — where he currently serves as the leading reporter on police shootings and the Black Lives Matter movement — The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Time Magazine, among other publications.
Lowery is expected to speak on race relations in the U.S. as well as discuss his book, “They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement,” which focuses on the Black Lives Matter Movement, as well as Lowery’s personal experiences.
His personal experiences are well documented in an article he wrote at The Washington Post, and include being arrested alongside a Huffington Post reporter during the protests in Ferguson, Missouri.
Lowery was covering the protests for The Washington Post as a reporter in a nearby McDonald’s. He was told he was arrested for trespassing at the McDonald’s where he and many other reporters were making best use of the free Wi-Fi and electrical outlets.
“As they took me into custody, the officers slammed me into a soda machine, at one point setting off the Coke dispenser,” Lowery said in the Washington Post article. “They put plastic cuffs on me, then they led me out the door.”
With a topic that comes with such strong opinions attached, Dean of The College of Arts and Sciences Eric Eisenberg, the individual who spearheads the Frontier Forum Lecture Series, said he is unsure of how Lowery’s message will be received.
“I don’t know how the campus community is going to receive it,” Eisenberg said. “I assume pretty positively. But, I am willing to deal with however it is received. It is such an important topic and so timely.”
With both personal and professional accounts on social justice issues, Eisenberg said Lowery’s speech will be different than other speakers that come to campus, such as those that are a part of the University Lecture Series (ULS).
“I think the ULS goes somewhat broader and more of an entertainment crossover, and we try to make sure that everyone we bring has an academic pedigree so that we don’t have people who are just celebrities or who have an opinion about things,” Eisenberg said. “We really want our people to have a rigorous and intellectual position.”
Eisenberg said there is no better time than now to have Lowery speak to students.
“The time is right,” Eisenberg said. “This is such an incredible moment in American history, where all of these things that are being brought to the surface and that we have to deal with them. Our commitment is to the fact. So, if this is a problem and he has done Pulitzer Prize winning reporting to reveal what is going on, let’s get it out there and talk about it.”
Eisenberg said he and his team, who decide on what speakers to invite, first look at what the issues are that peak the public’s interest the most and invite intellectual individuals with relations to the issues to share their stories.
Though these topics often may include discussions that can be deemed as controversial to some, Eisenberg said there is a vetting process that goes into inviting speakers, before they have been secured.
“I try really hard to listen to their message before they come to see the kinds of arguments that they make and the way that they present themselves,” Eisenberg said. “He (Lowery) is absolutely not an extremist. He is an intellectual, a journalist and someone who believes in fact.”
The Lowery event was purposefully scheduled during Black History Month and the Frontier Forum Lecture Series is partnering with the Black Leadership Network and The Institute on Black Life to put the event on, according to Eisenberg.
Though Lowery is a journalist, Eisenberg said that his message goes beyond students who plan to pursue that field.
“I think anybody interested in criminology, law enforcement, race relations and social justice would be the kinds of folks interested in something like this,” Eisenberg said. “And I think a lot of our students are interested in those issues, regardless of what their majors are, just because these are the issues of our time.”