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VSU professor wins Emmy for 'Say Her Name' video

Posted at 6:49 PM, Aug 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-30 19:37:29-04

ETTRICK, Va. -- Virginia State University Sociology Professor Dr. Zoe Spencer won an Emmy award for her "Say Her Name" public service announcement video during the virtual ceremony for the 62nd annual Capital Emmy Awards earlier this month.

"I'm so thankful to the academy for recognizing the homage, but we have to put the homage in a perspective," Spencer said.

The professor and scholar activist shared with CBS 6 her PSA came about after the death of Sandra Bland, a Black woman found hanging in a jail cell after being taken into police custody in 2015

"I wrote it a little bit after Sandra Bland was murdered and her death was really really traumatic for me," Spencer recalled. "Jesse Vaughn who also received several Emmys, works at Virginia State University and he developed a project that he called 'School of Thought' and he called and asked me if I wanted to participate."

Back in July 2020, Spencer appeared on "Virginia This Morning" on CBS 6 after her nomination was announced.

"Say Her Name" largely focuses on the history of enslavement, lynching, Jim Crow Era , oppression and exclusion, Spencer said.

And even though Spencer wrote the poem years ago, she said those topics are still at the forefront in 2020.

"It is about the work to be done to eradicate state-sponsored violence and the way that it impacts people of color, specifically African Americans," Spencer explained. "African American men more predominately and then the silent deaths of African American women."

Spencer said the history of enslavement, lynching and civil rights resistance that was supported and codified by state and local laws still impacts our culture today.

With that realization, Spencer said she had to put everything into perspective. And even though she received such an honor, it is not about her, but about the work still needed to be done.

"That piece is done and now there is so much work to be done," Spencer said. "Right now I am really focused on trying to engage policing, community policing, police reform, community building -- especially around Virginia State."

Click here to watch "Say Her Name" or view the video in the player below.