Grassroots political activist to speak at Community Conversations event

Lane Hall

On March 7, Lane Hall, professor at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee will speak at Maryville College about his involvement with the Overpass Light Brigade, a grassroots activism group that he co-founded.    

“His presentation is going to be about work that he has done in the last couple of years, becoming political because of what had been going on in Wisconsin,” said Dr. Susan Ambler, Hall’s sister and associate professor of sociology at MC.

Ambler said that in making political statements with the Overpass Light Brigade, Hall is “using his field to be an activist in the community.”

The Overpass Light Brigade, however, is no conventional grassroots activist group.

“Besides doing the typical things like registering voters, what they did was come up with the idea of trying to get a message to people using art,” Amber said.

“[Group members] would stand on overpasses with giant lit signs that had messages on them,” said Dr. Kelly Battles, assistant professor of English, who helped organize Hall’s visit. “For him, it’s important to have that sort of interface of people.”

Battles said Hall’s methods are important to modern activism.

“Lane Hall is someone who has started to explore and figure out how to turn the digital world activism into real-world activism,” Battles said. “I think it’s a really interesting way that someone who’s an academic gets outside of academia and make real change in the world.”

This desire for change was inspired by job and salary cuts in Wisconsin, according to Ambler. She said Hall both received a salary reduction.

“That was what started his thinking about needing to get involved in the political scene,” Ambler said.

Battles spoke about Hall’s political activism and its potential influence to today’s citizens.

“I think it’s something that deserves a lot more attention,” Battles said. “I think citizen activism is really important for whatever political party you belong to, especially learning how to bring it out of the digital world into the physical world.”

Lane Hall will talk about the Overpass Light Brigade and his activism to MC students, faculty and community members in a lecture that is part of the Community Conversations lecture series.

Battles said the Community Conversations series is an important way to connect to the community as well as to interest MC students in many different topics.

“That’s why we always bring in different lecturers and speakers and we invite the public,” said Battles said. “It’s something that really is important to our ongoing mission as an educational institution. We’ve always had a variety of speakers come in.”

The Community Conversation series hopes to attract more community members with lectures like Hall’s.

“Our goal is to increase our ratio of the community in the audience,” Battles said. “And to let them know that it’s not just student-focused. In terms of the mission of the community conversations series, it’s a really important part of the mission of any institution in higher education, to reach out and do community outreach.”

Hall will speak at 7 p.m. in Lawson Auditorium on March 7. Students, faculty and community members are encouraged to attend.

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