From left to right: Doug Blackmon, DeRay McKesson, Eric Holder, Elizabeth Hinton, Michael Eric Tyson, and Cedric Alexander

From left to right: Doug Blackmon, DeRay McKesson, Eric Holder, Elizabeth Hinton, Michael Eric Tyson, and Cedric Alexander

A multigenerational conversation on race took place at The Carter Center in Atlanta on Wednesday. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Douglas Blackmon, a senior fellow at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, moderated the nearly two-hour discussion, which brought together five of the country’s top and emerging thought-leaders in the areas of law enforcement, politics, academia, culture and activism: Eric Holder, former attorney general under the Obama administration; DeRay McKesson, activist and co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement;  Elizabeth Hinton, assistant professor in the departments of History and African and African American Studies at Harvard University; Michael Eric Dyson, author and professor of sociology at Georgetown University; and Cedric Alexander, director of public safety for DeKalb County.

They touched on a number of topics, ranging from police violence and brutality, criminal justice reform, voting rights, the importance of people and communities developing relationships and alliances across their differences. “We need to develop a cross-generation, cross-class, interracial coalition … to be able to take back our community,” Hinton said. 

DeRay McKesson expressed the importance of using social media to continue sparking conversations and educating people on issues that affect marginalized groups.  When asked about how to get started with activism McKesson stated, “Start where you are,” he said. “I didn't get a call from Harriet Tubman to be an activist.” 

At one point during a discussion pertaining to reparations, Dyson made mention of Beyonce’s Grammy snub and Kanye West’s mental health, shouting, “Give Beyonce her Grammy!” and “Rehabilitate Kanye.” 

Sally Yates, former acting attorney general, made one of her first public appearances after being fired by President Donald Trump for refusing to defend his executive order on immigration. Yates took a seat front and center in the audience after she was greeted by cheers and applause from many in crowded auditorium waiting to hear the dialogue.

While the panel discussion was a bipartisan event, critics of the Trump administration were not shy about calling out the president, particularly Dyson, who described Trump’s actions as “whiteness out of control.”