Professor of religious studies Anthony Pinn spoke to community members, including several Rice students, as a panelist at a Black Lives Matter event hosted by the Houston chapter of the movement. The event, entitled #BLMHTX, took place at St. John’s United Methodist Church on Friday night and featured an art exhibit, artist talks and a panel discussion with artists, religious leaders, activists and academics.

The panel covered topics including the intersections of art and activism, the role of the black church and the different forms of that oppression affect black Americans. Panelists and audience members called attention to police brutality, violence against black women, and the murder of black transgender women. Pinn criticized the mass incarceration of black Americans.

“Although slavery is over, it is still happening,” Pinn said. “They just replaced plantations with prisons.”

In addition to Pinn, the panel featured Houston- based artists Robert Hodge and Lovie Olivia, St. John’s pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus and Black Lives Matter activist X’ene Sky. Activist and Senior Editor of media company Mic Darnell Moore moderated the event.

During the artist talk, Hodge advised the audience to use their individual talents and skill sets in their activism.

“Your voice is necessary and needed,” Hodge said. “You are the missing voice. Make that work, make that song, do that poem. That’s your activism right there.”

Imani Butler, a Jones College junior who attended the event, said she connected with the idea of being active in a movement in personal ways. Butler said she has researched the movement for over a year and recently chose to put her research into action. She led a discussion on the Black Lives Matter movement at St. Paul’s last weekend.

“I liked how [the artists] said no matter what your skill set is, there is a way to contribute to the movement,” Butler said. “I was trying to find a way to get the movement going towards the church.”

Blaque Robinson, a Wiess College senior, and Chavonte Wright, a Martel College senior, both attended the event. They said they plan to host a conference for Rice and the Houston community in the spring called Reimagining Blackness: Channeling Passion into Action. The two said #BLMHTX motivated them to rework their conference’s objectives.

“It inspired us to cater not only to Rice, but to Houston because we saw that Houston is aching for [open dialogue],” Robinson said. Robinson hopes to provide a safe space where differences can be discussed.

“My goal and intent is to make spaces for students who feel they need to outwardly express emotions and feelings about issues facing black people,” Robinson said. “This upcoming conference will ... disrupt typical Rice discourses that say that talking about difference is unacceptable.”

The #BlackLivesMatter hashtag began in 2013 when activists began tweeting after George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin. The movement has grown offline to include chapters around the world, including the Houston group that held Friday’s event.