‘Passionate’ MTSU students grasp Southern Poverty ...

‘Passionate’ MTSU students grasp Southern Poverty Law Center perspective

Some MTSU students dined with Lecia Brooks, director of outreach for the Southern Poverty Law Center. Other students heard her speak about hate groups, intolerance and diversity in their respective social work and English literature classes.

Brooks, who also is director of the law center’s museum, visited MTSU Wednesday and Thursday, March 21-22, as keynote speaker for Scholars Week. She discussed “The Rhetoric of Hate and the Art of Resistance” during the March 21 keynote address and with a social work class earlier in the day.

Lucia Brooks visits MTSU

Southern Poverty Law Center outreach director Lecia Brooks discusses the various hate groups her organization encounters with MTSU social work students March 21 in Peck Hall. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

Scholars Week shows the scholarly efforts of MTSU students and faculty during the academic year.

As outreach director, Brooks frequently gives presentations around the country to promote tolerance and diversity.

“It’s been wonderful for me to be at Middle Tennessee State University,” Brooks said of her MTSU experience, just before flying back to her home in Montgomery, Alabama. “I’ve met so many students who have encouraged me and let me know that the future is bright.”

Brooks said the social work students in lecturer Carmelita Dotson’s class “were extremely passionate about the work that they are doing and committed (to it).”

Brooks attended Kate Pantelides’ Department of English “Feminist Rhetorics & Methods” class Thursday morning. The students recently finished author Roxanne Gay’s book, “Bad Feminist.”

“They get it,” Brooks said of the feminist class. “There’s a whole group of people that I know understand the issues we’re addressing in terms of social injustice, and so I feel confident they are being prepared at this university to address some of those issues.”

Social work seniors Bailee Murray, D.T. Turner and Latika Alexander, who had lunch with the invited guest, offered insight into Brooks’ appearance.

Alexander, a mother of two children and Nashville resident, said the conversation “opened up the light on how many hate groups are around.”

“When she was talking to me (at lunch), she was telling me to complete my goals because I have children,” Alexander added. “… MTSU has so many people from everywhere. Diversity’s one of the main reasons I came here.”

Turner, who is another Nashville resident, said the hate group discussion opened the door to “what we can do to change it.”

Murray, who is from White House, Tennessee, said Brooks included “lots of insights for students and a real-world aspect through her experience with the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

Andrew Towle, a senior psychology major from Nashville who is in the English literature class, said it “was interesting to hear how she (Brooks) applied ideas we shared. … It was good to hear her points about how society does do the bare minimum to ensure good for people as a whole.”

English professor Laura Dubek invited Brooks to speak during Scholars Week.

To learn more about the center, visit

— Randy Weiler (

Southern Poverty Law Center's Lecia Brooks

Lecia Brooks, director of outreach for the Southern Poverty Law Center, provides MTSU social work students with an accelerated version of her campuswide evening talk on “The Rhetoric of Hate and the Art of Resistence” March 21 in a Peck Hall classroom. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

Southern Poverty Law Center leader presents keynote address for MTSU’s Scholars Week

Posted March 13, 2018

By Gina Fann

In the wake of inflammatory racist messages left on and around the MTSU campus and the fall 2017 “Murfreesboro Loves” antiracism campaign that earned national attention, the director of outreach for the Southern Poverty Law Center will present the MTSU Scholars Week keynote address Wednesday, March 21.

2018 Scholars Week graphic

Click on the invitation for the full 2018 MTSU Scholars Week schedule.

Lecia Brooks will speak on “The Rhetoric of Hate and the Art of Resistance” at 7 p.m. March 21 in the Keathley University Center Theater.

Her lecture, which is sponsored by MTSU’s Distinguished Lecture Fund and the Department of English, is free and open to the public. A campus parking map is available at

The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Montgomery, Alabama, was founded in 1971 by civil rights attorneys Morris Dees and Joseph Levin Jr.

The nonprofit organization conducts civil rights and public interest litigation, monitors and reports on hate groups and other extremists throughout the United States, and promotes tolerance education programs.

Lecia Brooks, outreach director, Southern Poverty Law Center

Lecia Brooks

Brooks leads outreach on key initiatives for the SPLC, including its Teaching Tolerance project, which works to reduce prejudice among American youth and promote equality, inclusiveness and equitable learning environments. She also serves as director of the Civil Rights Memorial Center in Montgomery, an interpretive center that provides visitors to the Civil Rights Memorial with more understanding of the civil rights movement.

Brooks also will meet with MTSU students and faculty during her two-day visit to campus.

“I can’t think of a better time to be reminded that the civil rights movement did not end 50 years ago, on April 4, 1968, when Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis,” said MTSU English professor Laura Dubek, who’s organizing Brooks’ campus visit.

“The SPLC is important because it’s educating a new generation of freedom fighters, arming them with historical perspective and understanding, so that movement toward Dr. King’s idea of the ‘Beloved Community’ continues.”

Scholars Week web banner

The Anti-Defamation League released a study last month showing that incidents of white supremacist propaganda circulated on U.S. college campuses more than tripled in 2017. The organization noted 346 such incidents on 216 campuses in 44 states and in Washington, D.C., from September 2016 to December 2017.

During fall 2017 alone, 147 episodes occurred, a 258 percent increase over the 41 propaganda instances reported in fall 2016.

Dr. Laura Dubek, English professor

Dr. Laura Dubek

MTSU’s annual Scholars Week is a campuswide celebration of research, scholarship and creative projects. This year’s event is set March 19-24.

Each day focuses on one of the university’s seven undergraduate colleges, allowing students to present their research projects and hear from special guests in their fields of interest.

Dubek’s undergraduate students won first and third place for three consecutive years (2014-2016) in the universitywide Scholars Day poster exhibition.

You can learn more about Scholars Week at MTSU, including a full schedule of events, at The Southern Poverty Law Center’s website is

For more information about the keynote lecture, please contact Dubek at

— Gina E. Fann (