Washington Center

Black Lives Matter: Race, Policy, & Democratic Governance

Term or Semester: 
Day and Time: 
Mondays, 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Quarter Dates: 
March 22 - May 31, 2021
Course Number: 
UCLA Political Science 186
Quarter Elective

This course will examine race and ethnic politics through the lens of social movements, public policy, and democratic governance. The #Black Lives Matter Movement was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer and engages us to utilize a human rights lens to combat racial injustice, inequality, racism, and white supremacy. We will use a human rights and democratic governance approach often used in a U.S. foreign policy context to reconceptualize our understanding of the lived experiences and quest for freedom, justice, and equality on part of African Americans, Latinx, Asian Americans, Native Americans and other groups. Given the racial and ethnic demographic shifts over the past two decades, particular attention will focus on race, representation, and racism from President Obama to President Trump with a central focus on the 2020 elections, U.S. Census, and voting rights. We will analyze democratic governance under the Trump administration and the ways in which President Trump has invoked identity politics and white nationalism in governance. Finally, you will learn the tactics of effective social

movements/activism, civic engagement, data analysis, policy influence. There will be an applied component of this course and guest speakers will bring to life the theories and literature we read and review in class. Students will leave this class smarter on the topics addressed and also equipped with the tools for effective grassroots organizing, persuasive public speaking skills, and strategic policy influence.

Remote Outline

About the Instructor: Dr. Menna Demessie is the Vice President of Policy Analysis and Research at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. She leads the foundation’s research and policy initiatives that affect African Americans and the global black community in areas including education, criminal justice, economic opportunity, voting and environmental sustainability, among many others. In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, Dr. Demessie established the National Racial Equity Initiative for Social Justice at the CBCF in an effort to raise awareness and inform public policy on criminal justice reform and social justice issues writ large. She has spearheaded several partnerships with the White House, Congress, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and other nonprofit stakeholders to advance strategic efforts to influence and inform public policy. Prior to joining the CBCF, Dr. Demessie was one of five scholars in the United States to receive the prestigious American Political Science Congressional Fellowship. For the fellowship, she joined Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s team to work on federal unemployment legislation, antipoverty initiatives, and foreign affairs in the 112th Congress. She is the founder and co-managing editor of the CBCF’s Journal of the Center for Policy Analysis and Research, a multidisciplinary, peer-reviewed journal on public policy issues related to black politics in the United States and abroad. In August 2018, Ethiopian Prime Minister, Dr. Abiy Ahmed, appointed her as Secretary of the Ethiopian Diaspora Trust Fund Advisory Council. As of August 2019, she has worked with her colleagues in raising $ 6.1 million dollars for socioeconomic development in Ethiopia. To learn more, go to www.ethiopiatrustfund.org. Currently serving her second elected term on the Alumni Board for the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, Dr. Demessie, a proud Ohio native, who was also recently nominated to the Board of Trustees for her alma mater at Western Reserve Academy and the Executive Council of the American Political Science Association. Her hobbies include piano, basketball, and spoken word.

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