Black Cultural Center Trailblazers Panel: Transcript
Dion Lewis: I thank you all for being here. I'm Dion Lewis. I'm director of the Black Cultural Center and associate dean here at Swarthmore College. Tonight's panel is honoring our past, honoring our trailblazers, and we have some of our alumni here tonight.
Again, this is the 50th Anniversary of the Black Cultural Center, and this is also the 50th Anniversary, I'm sorry, of the Black Studies Department, 25th anniversary of the Chester Children's Chorus. This is our year of black excellence here at Swarthmore. I think these gentlemen and women who are here with us tonight are going to help us remember that. I'm going to introduce them. Starting with the gentleman to my right, your left, is Don Mizell, Class of '71. Don Mizell was an anthropology major at Swarthmore and he is convinced that he would not have won the 2005 Grammy for Album of the Year had it not been for the College. I quote, 'My experiences at Swarthmore changed me deeply, more than any other experience I've had, including my acceptance as Swarthmore's first African-American Thomas J. Watson fellow at Harvard Law School.' Mizell says that Swarthmore is where he began viewing all human creative endeavors through the lens of culture and so developed his appreciation for music as not just entertainment, but as highest expression of culture.
Mizell's idea to approach Ray Charles with the concept for Genius Loves Company was based on his recognition of Charles's significant, large, unrecognized contributions to American music culture in the 20th century. Mizell says, 'Ray Charles invented rhythm and blues, which is the father of rock and roll.' As a student activist and leader, Mizell, at the request of professors and administrators, worked closely with the College in recruiting and developing programs to strengthen the overall African American presence on campus. Among other contributions, he authored [inaudible 00:18:17] recruitment brochure, Black at Swarthmore, that was used effectively by the Admissions Office throughout the 1970s. He also helped lead efforts to establish the Black Cultural Center on campus, that black students at Swarthmore can have a safe and nourishing space to call their own.
Rosalind Plummer. A proud product, excuse me, of a Southern born family of preachers, teachers, and entrepreneurs. Ms. Plummer earned a Bachelor's of Arts from Swarthmore College in 1973, a Masters in Administration and Policy Insistence Intervention from Harvard's Graduate School of Education and the Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School. After a brief stint as the first black female associate at one of Philadelphia's largest law firms, Ms. Plummer started a private legal practice, while also serving as business and legal manager of Greenwood Associates, Inc., Philadelphia's first black-owned, full service advertising agency as a legal manager of Plumwood Developers, a business and real estate development consortium. During the course of a career, Ms. Plummer has taught at the secondary and college level, and currently serves as the instructor and supervising attorney for the Business Law Clinic of Temple Law School, operated from Temple's Small Business Development Center. Throughout her career, Ms. Plummer entrepreneurial husband had been aggressive advocates for small and black-owned business and participated in President Carter's first White House conference on small businesses, where her late husband was an elected delegate. ...
G. Isaac Stanley, Class of 1973, was a Swarthmore B.A. in sociology, anthropology, and an MBA from Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. He's retired from MetLife America, where he most recently was involved in overcoming the challenges of data extractions, storage integration, reporting from legacy computer systems to support product development cells and contractor requirements. Could that have helped with our last election? He's currently on the board of Ignite, Chicago, Illinois. Ignite is a leading human services organization dedicated to break the cycle of poverty for youth via housing, education, employment, career planning, financial empowerment, mental health support, and stable community connections. He's a member of the board of directors of Jackson Park Yacht Club for Youth Foundation, where their mission is to provide the outreach, education, training support resources to engage young people and adults in voting and other activities on and around Lake Michigan. Isaac is married to Ava Harris Stanley, M.D., Class of 1972, and they have two sons, George and Chris.
Mr. White, you were an add on. You have to introduce yourself, sir.
Jim White: I just came to hear some people, and they drafted me. But, Class of '73, econ major. I'm presently the CFO of a mid-level company, a public company. I didn't want to put out too much there. Worked with Don, particularly on the steering committee when I was a freshman, when we took over the President's Office. I was one of six that was brave enough or stupid enough to walk into the President's Office and we took over that. That's about it, that I can think of. I have three children, whom I'm tremendously proud of, and I've been married... I better know this number. 45 years.
Rosalind Plummer: To a Swarthmore?
White: To a Swarthmore. Yes, I did find my wife here at Swarthmore, so if you're looking, keep looking. There's somebody here.
Lewis: Ashabi Rich, Class of 1973, was born and raised in Norristown, Pa. She's an oshun priest for 24 years. She's a writer, dancer, reviewer. She's a Reiki practitioner, a mother of three. Ms. Rich is retired early childhood educator with the School District of Philadelphia, a former dancer with the late John Jones Company, United Souls of America, and the late Robert Baba Crowder Company, Kulu Mele African Drum and Dance Company, former owner and developer of Sweet Thangs Organic Vegan Dessert Company, founder and coordinator of University of Africa Traditions Community School. She is currently a grad student and communication development for social change at Temple University. Thank you, Ms. Rich.
Finally, our moderator this evening, Joy George, Class of '20, born and grown. Joy is a political science, and black studies special major, and peace and conflict studies. I'm sorry, peace and conflict studies is her minor at Swarthmore. She actively seeks to center the universal rights of the human in her activism and academic career. Joy has a strong desire to work towards the liberation and determination of marginalized population and express those with love. At Swarthmore, Joy is a research intern at the Black Cultural Center, intern with the Office of Diversity Inclusion and Community Development and the Front of House Coordinator with LPAC and Lang Music Hall. She has also co-organized Swarthmore's inaugural 2019 Women X Leadership Summit and recently has co-launched Communities of Care, a restorative and healing justice oriented initiative, which provides resources and space for community dialogue on personal and interpersonal interests. In the interests of holding intentional healing space, Joy grounds herself through building and working closely with the amazing black women, femmes, and nonbinary souls of Isiah. She is also a co-organizer with Students for Justice in Palestine. Thank you, Joy, for being our moderator tonight.
I should say, when we started to conceive, really, this whole year of celebration, Joy was one of our first hires with regards to research. Joy has spent the last three years deep in the archives of Friends Historical Library researching, obviously not only the Black Cultural Center, but really Blacks at Swarthmore. Joy has taught me things, and actually done a service to the College because she's helped to organize some things that were not organized. So, Joy, I thank you for your service.
The format for this evening is we're going to have Mr. Mizell to come up with this panel, give some introductory remarks, then Joy will come forth and she has a set of questions that she's developed to ask the panelists. Don, we're going to give you the mic now. Be kind. Yeah, be kind.
Mizell: I don't know about that.
Lewis: All right. Thank you, Don.
Mizell: I will be truthful. I'm very pleased to be here. I'm honored to be back up with my people from the days when we had to try to get the College to deliver on the promises that it made in the wake of the death of Courtney Smith. The story that I want to tell hasn't been told. The narrative typically stops with the takeover and then magically, all these things happened somehow as a result of the end of takeover. I just know that's not the truth, and I want to put the truth out here. It needs to be told. I feel compelled to do it now because there's a story. Clint[on] Etheridge [Jr. '69] wrote an article in 2005. It covered almost half of the alumni magazine. It was his version of what happened. He's an engineer, very detailed and very precise in his telling of the story, but it didn't really capture a lot of what was really behind what he was saying, and that was a problem.
I believe that the story of the seven sisters and the brother was occasioned by their disappointment, to some degree, in what wasn't said in Clint's article. The book that has come out now is... I'm so happy they did it because I learned a lot about them as individuals that I really didn't know back then, and they really brought a lot of substance as well to the telling of the particulars of how the whole thing happened. It was very accurate as far as it went. But, in my mind, it wasn't the whole truth. It was the truth, but in law, we say the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And I don't think it was the whole truth. Not that there were any lies in there, it was just incomplete. Also, you all may know about Rashamon, the Japanese classic film, where there is a group of people going through the woods and somebody gets murdered, then here comes somebody along to investigate what happened. Everybody that was there, they scrambled and they had a different view of what happened. So, they each told the story from a different point of view and it was all true. We're the only ones who could tell that, but none of them were telling the exact same story because they were looking at it from their vantage point. Alright, because they were looking at it from their vantage point. Where you sit depends on where you stand.
And so I had the feeling that the story I want to tell is the part that's missing and that would complete the narrative in a way that will be useful to people who really want to understand. So change can happen or what happened at Swarthmore in particular, especially in the wake of the takeover. I happen to be, for whatever reason, the guy that it all came down on. I was the link between the Class of '69 and '68, especially since the '69 class had graduated.
I was a sophomore when they drafted me to be the spokesperson for SASS. I was not the leader unless you think spokespersons should be considered leaders, but I certainly was not instigating or catalyzing any of the things that happened. But I did report for duty when I was called to speak on behalf of SASS. There are some spokesmen who were considered leaders like Malcolm X. He was not the leader of the Muslims but he was the spokesperson, so you can be a leader. I wasn't really trying to be the leader, I was trying to just make a contribution. So, that's what I did.
But I did in my mind become the leader, later, when they graduated or after that event. Because it fell on me, as the link between the five students who were admitted black to Swarthmore when I was a sophomore and the largest class that ever, black class, came to Swarthmore. That's a big gap, and I was in the middle of it. I had a lot to do with what happened, but not because I was trying to be it. It was just, history can come along and call you. You answer the call or you don't. Your time, and I was ready, I guess, willing anyway to answer the call.
So the long and the short of it, the part that I really want to focus on is the story of how the Black Cultural Center came about. Because I think that's what this event is about. Dion is a great guy and he's great for the center and the center is 50 years in. And I'm not going to sugar coat things and I'm not up here bragging. I am not seeking your affection. I just want you to understand what I'm saying happened.
The bottom line is, it started with the 10 nonnegotiable demands that SASS made in 1968, the fall of '68, and that we took over the building. The group says our 10 demands, but you should know what we said: these are 10 nonnegotiable demands. Okay. Now that is what I think is where the rub was, because we weren't in the mood to just demand and then negotiate a compromise. No, we said 10, we put it in writing, and we acted on it. Now that's a radical move. We were not interested in having the College go into like the Quaker consensual and if I don't really agree, you can't do it.
No, we want this. We got to have it. We need it. We need it now and we're willing to go for it and here's why. Now that was a really a violation of Swarthmore's normal way of handling things. We don't give them the Quaker meeting house and we talk it out and you kind of get a consensus. No, we demand it and we didn't just demand, it was nonnegotiable. And I thought, wow. Now that did not come from me. That came from the group, and the seven sisters were the driving force for that energy.
They wanted the men to go out there, and at the time I thought, well, it's good they respect us as men. But later on I came to think, well maybe they just wanted us to catch the bullets that were coming. Then they could step out and feel sorry for us as we lay there choking to death. Because that easily could've happened anywhere, but at Swarthmore, when the president died and I was the spokesperson that everybody looked at as the leader.... So I was going to get all the bullets. And of course being 18 and straight from the Everglades, I was clueless about exactly.... 'Boy,' my mother said, 'boy have you lost your mind?' 'Well, no mom, I can explain it.' 'No you can't.' 'Yes I can.'
Okay, so at the end of the day, the men's story, the black men, the first chairman, Sam[uel] Shepard ['68], Clint Etheridge. In some of the book, they said I was the co-chairman of SASS, but I can assure you, I don't remember that. Now, it may be that I'm 70 now and can't remember shit, but I don't remember that. I remember just being the spokesperson, but then it's elsewhere in the book they said I was the co-chairman. But the one thing I was not doing was making any decisions other than go out here and say whatever the group had decided should be said. But what my contribution was, as far as I was concerned, was that I wanted to be effective in conveying the rightness of our cause. And I thought I was very good at selling it, of persuading, making the case, but I was not the one who constructed the case.
They were my mentors. I mean, and not just the seven sisters but Sam Shepherd was the first chairman of SASS, and Clint, and we used to, just the men. Like, I didn't really know the sisters had a brother with them. I knew Harold was friendly, but we used to get together and pow-wow, the men. So there're a men's story here that hasn't been told. And I'm going to have to put it in a book I think. Everybody else is writing, I might as well break down and write it. So if they shoot me now I'll probably be happy. I'll doing good, this shit is over.
At the end of the day though, it was a Black community. The men and the women getting together and even though they might not even like each other, even though they didn't really necessarily agree with every single thing, it was not a dictatorship or the proletariat. There was a lot of rigorous discussion. You know, we worked it through, but when we came out, it was one position and I was the person that was supposed to deliver it, with Clint, but that was my story.
So then I became kind of famous. There's an iconic image because for some reason, when I came out there in the hall, I saw an empty chair and I decided, well, I should just stand up in the chair. I'm not going to sit down. And I stood up and I spoke to the large pictures of Swarthmore's founders and over the heads of the kids who had sat on the floor. Because I was speaking to posterity, to the future. I was speaking to a truth beyond whether these particular people here, and that was why I did it. But that's the picture that turned out to be the one that represented the whole thing, eventually, because the seven sisters were invisible, deliberately. And so when it came time, when [President] Courtney Smith died, they sent me there to face the mob —and it was a mob — alone, by myself. I was like, well, where's Clint? What happened to Clint?
It was a very deep moment when I stepped out at the edge of Parrish. The first thing I heard was 'Murderer! You killed Courtney Smith!' and I was like, oh shit. And it was just tense. It was no joke. The cameras were rolling. The police. The DU fraternity boys. I mean, it was just like, and I'm standing there by myself.
So that was the day I grew up. I changed from being a boy to a man in that one second. I grew up so fast that all of my immature impulses just disappeared. I had to be somebody who was in the middle of what had came to be, many say, a pivotal moment in the history of the College. And you know, I wasn't even trying to be here. I mean, I got drafted. That's the context in which I want you to just understand. I think I'm the link between that Class of '69 and what happened and the Black Cultural Center as it evolved. I'm like right in the pivot point. so I'll make this short.
The long and the short of it is, the College was really very, very aggressive about trying to satisfy the 10 demands, in a certain order. And they were more black students scholarships, Black studies, black team. We had 10 and the last one was the Black Cultural Center. That was the last one and so they would just go boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, right straight through, working very hard. I was working close, but the Black Cultural Center was not happening.
We had gone, you all had arrived the fall of '70 I recruited them for the admissions' office and you know, I know this is a little while, but [Dean of Admissions] Fred Hargadon, who had become a target of hatred, and I had a great relationship because I was on the basketball team at one point. He said to me in the wake of the takeover, when he was really under the gun, he said, 'Don, look, we're trying to recruit more black students, but nobody wants to come because the parents say those are black militants who killed the president. You're not going there.' He said, 'I can't do anything about it because I'm a suspect classification. Will you help me?'
I was like, so now you want me to take your bullets too? Shit. And I was like, well yeah, we need these students. And I realized I had to go to work and they sent me around the country recruiting black students and we now we wound up with the largest in history, but I worked very, very hard on that. And then they asked me to stay the summer to write the brochure with Maralyn Gillespie ['49]. She was a beautiful woman in charge of publications. I did that. And then we pushed on Black Studies. A lot of things were happening. It was all good except for a black cultural center. No, no, no. Okay. So I'm trying to be cool, I don't want to have any more demonstrations. You know, the chairman says, by the way, I'm probably the longest serving chairman of SASS, if I was the chairman when I did it, going along with the two years after, like three years.
But the bottom line is that, you know, the College was not going to have a black cultural center. And the reason was that because they didn't really want it. It's like we're doing all these things. We're spending money, we don't have Rockefeller money, what we're doing it, we are working on this, but we just don't have the money for a black cultural center. Sorry.
And I was like, well you need to go find it then. 'Why do you need a black cultural center?' Well we needed a safe harbor. We need a safe haven. We need a place where we can go and congregate and really just be with each other in a way that affirms our blackness and our culture. We need that. And they didn't think that was all that important cause they thought it was separate. This was the issue. 'Why would y'all want to separate when you were fighting for integration?' But they didn't quite understand, it wasn't really separation. It was, we wanted a place that we could formulate our identity in a way that it had not been able to be done before by black folks in a white environment. It was just brutal, the degree to which you were supposed to deny your blackness, the worth of your blackness.
And we were not with that. We knew better. We knew better, and we knew that we needed a place where we can cultivate and nourish. And that was not considered important enough and so it didn't happen. Now I'm working closely with the administration and they're really doing very well, on all levels except the black cultural center. They were like, 'if you want a party, just go use Bond. You can book Bond.' We don't want Bond. We want a black club, because it's not just about partying. This is far deeper. Now I'm an anthropology major, I'm studying culture. And so I'm looking at culture as finger popping to James Brown. You know, I have a different view and I carried that all the way into the music business. And that's how that Ray Charles thing came about. And that's why I came and gave it back to the Black Cultural Center. Because what I did with Ray was about culture, it wasn't about entertainment.
Acknowledging it, that our culture is important. It's as important as anybody else's. We need to be able to know it, celebrate it, affirm it, share it. That's important, culture. If we don't have a culture, we're nothing, and we do have one, you can't define it. We will. We have to and we need our space. Come on now. If you're going to have all these students, you've got to, so that was the argument. The argument ultimately, if that was agreed, or at least they stopped arguing, but then they said, ,we just don't have the money. We'll get the money.' Well it didn't happen. So now we're into 1970. Everything is rolling, it's beautiful. But we're not getting that. So I decide that, okay, we have to do something again, but we don't want to do it in public.
I certainly don't want to be the spokesman. I cannot take anymore bullets than I already have collected with my rear end. So let's figure this out. We pow-wow. James, Buck, a lot of people that are not here, names, the new students, because my seniors, my upperclassmen, they had left. The ones who mentored me and pulled me in, the ones who led the way and then sent me out there as the representative. And so we decided we were going to do something that would not be in the news, nobody would know, but it would be as a statement, a disruptive statement. This the syllabus whatever you want to call it, Martin Luther King type of thing and here's what it was and then I'll be done.
We decided that we were going to, at midnight, in the middle of the week, we were going to get together and have a bunch of torches lit with congas and bongos and we went through the campus. Now, you know, Swarthmore is dead at midnight in the middle of the week. There's nobody there, which is why we, one of the reasons. But we go straight to President Cross's house. Okay. Like 20, 25 Negroes with torches in the middle of the night.
Okay. When we get to his balcony and I had written some poems that express what we wanted. I wanted it to be a cultural event and I was not going to be the one leading, I was in the back this time. Somebody else who has to catch bullets but not me, but this is a Don Mizell production. Okay. So we were dressed in African garb. And so come visit [inaudible 00:48:48] the charges are, and then Robert Cross comes staggering out on the balcony and you know. He was like he was Ebeneezer Scrooge and had run up on the ghost of Christmas past, okay? He was freaked out. And one by one, three people read a very short poem statement. Prose really, not poems, stating our case. And then we turned around and one by one as we disappeared into the night, put out the torches, single file, silently into that dark night. And I turned and looked at him and he was standing there like just, I mean, he didn't know if he was dreaming or what.
Now that's what we did to get the black cultural center. Well, the next day he sent for me. He called, and I liked him. He liked me, we had a good rapport. He said, 'listen, we're going to try to find this money.' I was like, I bet you are. He said, 'I need a few days.' Okay. Well, a few days later he called me back and he said, James Michener ['29 H'54], America's most popular author, a Swarthmore grad and a big benefactor to the College along the lines of Eugene Lang '38, H'81], were among the first, he was the first Eugene Lang in my mine cause he was, and now he put up $100,000 so that the college would have the money to set black cultural center out.
Now that story has not really been told. He has not been properly honored. Michener. I mean, he was super rich and he told me, I asked him why, I talked to him. He said, 'well, I was an orphan and Mother Swarthmore took me in, and I found a safe place to feel secure and to really. So I know that that's really what's behind what you all are after. I'm white, but it was an orphan thing, and I understand. And I want you to have that because I know how important that can be in a way that nobody at the administration really understood.' But he did because he had been an orphan. And then he had married, he was in the South Pacific, which is where a lot of his books were. Huge bestsellers, big, big, big. One was Hawaii, South Pacific, whatever, some of them were made into Broadway musicals. You know, he was big, big, big, but he said he saw a lot of racism against Asians in the Pacific and it bothered him.
So that was his, it wasn't black votes. It was what he saw how the soldiers, this men were in the Pacific and he had married an Asian woman. I think she was Japanese, I think so, if I'm not mistaken. And so James Michener was already at the cutting edge of diversity and it was because he could identify. And when he did identify, he acted on it and I thought, well this, he's fantastic. So I just want to say that place is called Robinson House. But in my mind it should be Michener House cause it without that $100,000, I don't think the College would have moved on it because they had not. It was the last thing that they had not done. And I'm saying that I think what prompted it, was the demonstration that nobody knew about. It was not in the paper or on TV. We didn't, we did it as a message to Cross.
And the only reason I wanted to do it that way is because I knew that President Cross was a very good man, and I knew that if he just understood this is a problem, we're not trying to, you know, we don't want to do this, but what else can we do? And you got to finish with these items, this bucket list here. You can't stop there. You know, SASS, we want it all, period. And my message is that is what happened.
So a white guy and an author who was an orphan, who married an Asian, is the person who put up the money that occasioned the creation of the Black Cultural Center. Now my, the main thing I want to say is it's a struggle. You have got to remain ready to act if you want something that you're not getting and you're sure that it's needed and it's something principled.
You have to be willing to take a sacrifice. You have to be willing to fight. If you don't fight, it won't happen. And you don't have to fight all the time. But periodically you have to engage in a struggle and don't forget it. In other words, that center did not magically appear in the wake of the death of Courtney Smith. That is not the story. And I have to say that what I love, I always loved Swarthmore. I loved it when they came and got me to be the spokesperson and people were calling me a murderer and all this. I just think Swarthmore's fantastic. For me, it was just the greatest. But the bottom line is it had to be pushed. It had to be engaged. Now we said non-negotiable, but we negotiated. We did. I mean, that's how you kind of work it. You don't start out, 'won't please just give me what you, anything you want.' No, I want it all. Okay, 'well would you take 80 percent?' Well maybe you know it depends on what 80 percent. But it's a struggle.
Don't forget that. That's number one. The second thing I want to say on Swarthmore's behalf is, even though it dragged its feet in certain ways and it was always a problem here and there, that's just how institutions are. But what I like about Swarthmore and the Quaker culture, that is in its DNA from which it derives its distinct existence, is that, as Maurice [Eldridge '61] says, it is willing to pursue getting the thing, the process of trying to get better, to live up to its idea, something that America should be trying to do. We need to be like that. You cannot do that without struggle. But the College responded.
Listen, when the president died, they could have put us all in jail. They could have flunked us all out. They could have called the police and got shot up. All kinds of things that didn't happen. That's Swarthmore. And then the Black Swarthmore students did not freak out. We didn't quit. We didn't quit the school. We didn't come back and keep going militant. We did not burn up the Parrish Hall.
Everybody kind of figured out a way to get at this problem, respectfully and with a sense of fairness, and that is Swarthmore. And I just love the way the school is now. I can see the progress and the Black Cultural Center significantly is a key catalyst, because what it represents is a reality that they've now then tried to replicate and extend with the Intercultural Center, women, and all these other things. All these kinds of institutions were not here. The Black Cultural Center was the first of its kind as far as I know. Unless it was Hillel center, I don't know if that was here. But the bottom line on this is it is the root from which everybody is kind of drawing their inspiration and the justification for their presence. And that has made Swarthmore better. It's a far better school.
It was always smart and tough and nice. I don't know, but the kind, Dion is kind. I'm not trying to be kind. I'm just trying to be clear, really clear, that you have a great, great college here, because it is willing to engage and grow and change. But you got to fight. Now right now, I'm concerned about the Black Cultural Center going forward because all these other people have emerged and are leveraging the money. And if you're not careful, it will be taken for granted and given short shrift and short sighted, and that would be a tragedy. And if I was a student and you did it, I would take over the building again. But I'm not, so lucky for you.
The cultural center needs to be strengthened. I've been here a couple of days, I'm checking it out. There's a lot more that should be happening for an institution that has survived 50 years. That's a half a century. That means like, when I was born in 1949, it would be like 1899, I mean wow, that's a long time now. It has proven its viability, its worth. It couldn't do it without College really being there. But I don't want it to be the case where suddenly it seems like it's not as important because it's not as inclusive. But that's not necessarily the case at all. When Dion asked me to come, I said, look, I'll talk, but I want to talk about the creation and establishment of the Black Cultural Center and its story and its value to the College, and to really make the case for seeing it in a light where you're going to strengthen it and build it because it is the bedrock and the core from which the new Swarthmore emerged. Thank you. [applause]
Joy George: Hello everyone. How are y'all doing? So first of all, before we get into this panel discussion, I wanted to thank Don Mizell for your remarks. I think you laid out really well what happened after the takeover of the Admissions Office and all of the work that went into getting the House built. As someone who's graduating Class of 2020 this wouldn't have happened without y'all and all of you who are sitting here, so thank you for all of that. And I also wanted to acknowledge, for those who are walking in and sat before the panel started, we had a slideshow that was playing. All of those pictures were taken by Leandre Jackson ['75] who was actually the first... Leandre was actually the first director of the Black Cultural Center when the house opened. And actually was taking pictures at Swarthmore before he was student here and before the house started about four years, three, four years before he was student?
Leandre Jackson: I took photographs when I was a student.
George: So we have a large collection of photographs that will be on display in May. So thank you for those photographs. And also if you've ever gone to the House, there's a large photograph in the living room of, I think the Class of 1971, 1972?
Plummer: It was in 1971 that it was taken. But it was of a diverse class.
George: So, that was the first class, I will say, that had the House as a space. So it's a beautiful picture if you've ever seen it and or have had the chance to do so.
And so I wanted to say that and mention that before we got into the panel discussion. So as I said before, Don, you laid out the kind of steps that we took to get the House and now I want to talk about what it was like when we actually got it. And so this is for anyone to answer, and I will say since there are a lot of folks on the panel, to try and keep the answers concise. As some of the first students to utilize the Black Cultural Center, can you recount what being in the House during those early days? But first like?
Plummer: Okay. This little piggy [holds a ceramic piggy bank] is over 50 years old and I have carried with me for that period of time because when we came into the black house, we were fully engaged in this identity. We picked the color of the paint, we cleaned out the attic, and this is where I found this little piggy. And hoarder that I am, I've carried it with me as a reminder of how much the black house meant to me. And another experience I think best indicates that it was both a home away from home and a magical kind of place. A group of us were sitting in the black house talking about issues that we were in engaged in that timeframe with raising our consciousness, really understanding what's going on.
We all kinds of craziness was going on and here we have children being demanded to be adults and think about serious issues and what we're going to do about it. And so in that dialogue, Don came up with this wonderful name for a course that we decided we should set up, a student run course called Lordship and Bondage.
Mizell: I stole that from Hegel.
Plummer: Yeah, but it was good though. And we sat and we created a syllabus, we created a reading list, an assignment list, even a meeting schedule in the black house. And the only thing missing for us to get course credit, which is important to Swarthmore students, can't waste that time, was the faculty advisor. And of course at that time we really did not have a whole bunch of people to pick from who would be receptive to us. And the one professor who was there, probably our sense of him was he probably viewed the black houses as this bastion of this black political, radical, crazy stuff. But I'm a Southern girl and I grew up in initially segregated South, and what I learned is that even though we had diverse opinions, diverse politics, that ultimately we were family and engaged in the struggle trying to get to the next day. And so I took it upon myself to speak to this professor and see if I could persuade him to be that person who sponsored our class.
I knew I couldn't do it if I went into his office. So I don't know what I did when I said to him to convince him to come into the black house. But I knew there was something magical about leaving the campus and literally coming into this place that was a home. It had that feel that, that had our passion. And he came. And we sat in the room that we... Some of us call it the slave room because it had the television and it was close to the kitchen. And in a very short period of time, the discussion and interaction that I was having with him changed from being that of a faculty member to a student, to being that of two black people from different generations discussing how they were approaching the issue of really our subjugation. And that's really what it was. However you word it, it was really being to being pushed back from advancement. And we shared that and even though he had a different opinion about it, I was finally able to make him understand the importance that we had as young people to come up with our own way of dealing with things, to respect his way, but to come up and to be able to sit in a course and figure it out.
So he signed the petition and became our faculty advisor and I deem that to be solely a factor, the sole factor that made him is the Black Cultural Center. Sitting in that space where we could talk honestly where we were free from eyes looking at us and people forming opinions that we could stop being combative and really be people. In that house it felt like home and magic worked. And that to me, aside from my piggy, is one of the most rewarding and memorable things about the Black House. That and the fact that JB, one of our classmates, sat there on a piano and held church and eventually became the gospel choir. That we, a group of us, decided that we should use our advantages to form a big brother, big sister thing and go out and mentor some of the black students out in Swarthmore.
That all of those kinds of things came about because we were in this magical place, that we felt good. We had different opinions, we debated, but it was all fine because we were family once we came into that Black House. And I felt that way when I came through the Black House before coming here, it warmed me. It's a little bit different looking, but I still see the Africa room. The slave quarters had been turned into sort of reception area, but it just felt really good and it made it easier to come here and speak honestly.
Mizell: It's welcoming.
Plummer: Yes. I'm through. [crosstalk 01:08:01].
Isaac Stanley: Sorry, okay. Well, when I first came to Swarthmore, I came as a part of the Class of 1973, came here in the fall of '69, and one of the things that people tend to forget or to not think about was the fact that the Vietnam War was raging at that point in time. And I come from a small family as far as my immediate family is concerned, but a larger family. That is on my father's side there were 12 brothers and sisters, on my mother's side they were seven. And most of the cousins my age were either enlisting into the military or being drafted into the military. So when we made that action on that particular evening, I remember distinctly thinking about, if I get kicked out, what are my options here?
So, that was another big pressure that was existing at that time was the war and the fact that a lot of us, had it not been for college, we were going directly into the military. So when I came to Swarthmore, it impressed me as a place where, well, first of all it was the beauty of the campus. And the fact that I was getting a financial aid package that didn't put my parents under a lot of pressure. As some of the folks talked about on Friday, I came from a situation where there wasn't a lot of money in the house to support me going out and going to college and taking out loans and that type of thing. So coming to Swarthmore was good in that respect.
There were also a lot of, I wouldn't call them microaggressions, but really direct aggressions that I experienced coming on campus. I came here deciding to be an engineer, but my path changed. I just recall very vividly that freshman year, one instructor I had basically challenging the fact that, in his mind at least, I got the impression that he thought I shouldn't be here and that I was not capable of doing certain things in terms of the math and science and whatnot.
So, when the Cultural Center came into being, it was a place of refuge for me where I could go and feel comfortable, where I could study and not feel like, 'Okay, where's this next aggression going to come from? Or where's this next microaggression going to come from?; And just being around my brothers and sisters here at the College was very reaffirming and supportive and like Rosalind was saying, was family.
And one of the reasons for my success here was the fact that I felt supported by the folks who were in a similar situation I was in.
Jim White: My point of view is a little bit different in that my roommate and I were the first residents of the Cultural Center, for one semester. After one semester I figured if I wanted to graduate from Swarthmore, I better get out of there because we had students at 12 o'clock and one o'clock in the morning, it's like, getting no sleep, getting nothing done. There were a a core of us who used to watch Star Trek every evening. We were Trekkies.,
But as Isaac and Roslyn particularly said, there were a number of us who experienced situations where professors were either blatant or subtle about the fact that a lot of us didn't belong here. And so the Cultural Center was a place of comradery, a place of healing, a place of strength for us. Even going forward, I'm on the Alumni Choir, we presently even now we rehearse there, and when we rehearse, it's not just about singing but it's a family. We had a family of brothers and sisters who kind of came together and it was a wonderful thing. I was actually involved a little bit in terms of the purchasing... We purchased a sound system, we got shelves for the library rooms and stuff like that.
And I want to just acknowledge the great leadership that Don provided to us, because a lot of us were freshmen. I heard this just eloquent guy, and I'm saying, 'I've never seen a brother like this in my life.' He was so articulate and elegant and eloquent. I just want to acknowledge all that you did, Don, to provide leadership to us.
There's one other thing I just wanted to say. And I'm not sure in the chronology where there was, but in addition to the Congo drone event, we also did as part of some pressure we did... I remember the students in [inaudible 01:13:52] one evening, we all got into Bond and we're laying in bond and... [inaudible 00:13:58]. Well that's all I remember it was 12 o'clock, I think at night, and I remember I had a white roommate, really nice guy, and I kind of snuck in after he was asleep and everybody brought pillows and blankets and that kind of thing. And I'm not sure if it was the day after that or whatever it is but we did actually go into President Cross's office and sat down there. And before we knew it, there were a lot of white students who actually helped us.
Plummer: Yeah, they supported us.
White: They supported us, which was tremendous. And by the way, I just want to thank the black students who are here tonight. I was on a panel maybe around 10 years ago on a Black Cultural Center and there were three people who showed up. So I just want to applaud the fact that you're here to listen to our reflections about the Black Cultural Center. But as Isaac said, we heard rumors they were going to kick us out of school, we did know the FBI was on the campus. That's another story all together. My roommate almost got coerced into carrying guns during that time by FBI informant. And at the end of our freshman year, the College literally shut down because of the Vietnam and Cambodia thing. So it was a very volatile time and so for us, the Cultural Center was a safe haven for us.
Plummer: Can I interject?
White: Yeah, go ahead. I'm done.
Plummer: Throughout the take over of the office, throughout the take over of Bond, we did our homework. Actually we had a system where we had shifts so you're in the office this hour, going over to Bond and get your homework done, here's your food, it was a rotation. We kept up with our work because we knew we were on scholarship. Swarthmore don't play. So we did our work and we turned it in. We had people go and turn it in while we were still in Bond. One other experience was there was a young lady who was on a music scholarship who was part of the protest, and they told her if she did not show up at the concert, that she was going to lose her scholarship. Because we operated, sort of like Afrocentric, let's get it together, figure this out. We took over the building that the concert was going to be in. [crosstalk 01:16:40] Yes, settled that.
Ashabi Rich: It was really tumultuous time. I came in '69 in the fall, I remember we were in Bond. I remember Myra cooking for us when we were spending the nights there. The SASS and the Black Cultural Center was a home away from home. It was a safe place to be. We could go and just be black people. And we didn't have to worry about other people's opinions of what we were doing, of our hair, of our clothes, of our language, of anything. We did have some tough times with some of the professors who would stand in classes and say we didn't belong there. [Peter] Van de Kamp was one of them. I would say that it was an incubation for a lot of us. Because we came in, we were young, and a lot of us were very naive. We were nerds, a lot of us. As we came in and everything was new. People were here who were traveling the world from the time they were born, and we traveled from our house to the school [crosstalk 01:17:51] to train.
So, it was amazing. When we had the course, Lordship and Bondage, that was of course that helped for me to know that I could define myself. When we had Kathryn Morgan with our folklore class. She's the person who woke me up, because I was seeking. She's the person who woke me up to the fact that we had Pan-African culture. And then when we had Dr. Barrett, Leonard Barrett, who taught African cultures and African religion and new work cultures. That's where I really took off in that direction and I never looked back. And I would say that he was responsible for me being able to find myself and what I was seeking. The experience of Swarthmore was tremendous. The house... It should be made the Black Cultural Center of anything, it becomes anything it should be the Africa, Pan-African cultural center, but it should not become the intercultural center because there's enough of that going on in all of our struggles through the years.
There's always been another group who wants to attach themselves to our struggle and use the energy to get where they're going and then kind of drop us when they get there. And there are a lot of people who attaches themselves there. So we need to maintain our identity, and it's not to be separate, but it speaks to be strong and to retain our cultures. We're busy trying to go back and find out who we are, doing DNA tests. I'm fortunate to have been able to do my mother's side because my parents were older when I got here and they've been gone a long time.
And I found out that through my mother's side, I'm 100 percent Mende from Sierra Leone. So now I'm going to go back and dig through my dad's side, because he always told us we were Africans. That's what his parents told him when he grew up; they grew up in the South. So the Black Cultural Center is so important. It's part of Swarthmore that should never go away and instead should be developed and be a center for study, your archives. Have that in there, have your own library, have its own library so that people can come and study. And it can be a research center, as well as a home away from home, which it was for us. We're glad you kept it.
Mizell: About Lordship and Bondage, you got to understand, everything was in upheaval, cataclysmic changes, tectonic shifts in Swarthmore, and that was on all levels. We shut down the school, there were teach-ins about the war, justice. I mean, it was just a wild time. Nothing like that hasdever happened before or since. We took over the College, the students, all of the students not just the black students. We did our black thing, but there was a lot of common ground too, between the radical white students and professors who really were the bedrock of our support and trying to push forward. These people are overlooked. Like Bradley, Thompson Bradley and other people, Daniel Bennett, these cats, and they were the chairmen of the department. Okay, I thought that Thompson Bradley was actually Vladimir Lenin. He looked like him. Every time I saw him, Vladimir.
But here's the thing. Dan Bennett is the chairman of the Philosophy Department. I didn't know from Hegel from a hole in the wall, but he was a radical professor, smart and really bold. The FBI got hold of him sent somebody after him and ran him into the ground mentally. But when I was up one day going to class, he's the one who suggested that I get with the students to create this course. Okay, because he felt we needed to teach ourselves. We could and we should, because what we were getting was some orthodoxy that didn't necessarily lie. We could do it because the College had opened up and you had teach-ins and you could have a student-run course if you had a faculty member adviser. And so Dan Bennett is the one who gave me the idea that we should be doing that in the Cultural Center.
And that's when I went and started thinking about it. I didn't want it to be a Marxist course, but I did respect the dialectic, which Marx got from Hegel. [inaudible] So I thought, well, okay, Hegel had actually studied a little bit of the master-slave relationship. The subtitle of Lordship and Bondage was the historical, cross-cultural examination of master-slave structures and relations. That's how we attacked it. Because we were interested in killing slavery and we wanted to know how does master-slave thing happen? Why, across time, across cultures, what are the core essentials and how can we take that and then figure out how to liberate ourselves? Our theme was we wanted to be liberated and we are going to have to do it ourselves, and how can we do it ourselves if we don't figure it out for ourselves, because we're not going to get taught this. And Dan Bennett said, 'You all are smart enough and you are in the position you should be in order to figure it out. So you should do it and I will back you, too.' So we had him, too. My point-
Plummer: But we wanted a Black professor.
Mizell: But my point is that, there was... none of this would've happened if we didn't have certain white folks ready to tune in and affirm what we were trying to do. And so don't let that get lost in the shuffle. The Black Cultural Center wouldn't exist but for James Michener, in my opinion. Some of the things we did... there were white people who did not have a problem with black folks defining themselves and empowering themselves. And we need that, and when they do, they don't need to be overlooked and just swept under the rug with all the white assholes.
Plummer: Even the Robinson family was part of the process.
Mizell: I just want to make that clear and that's what I like about Swarthmore. We have those professors, like Van de Kamp, whatever his name was. He's the reason that Vanesse [Thomas '74 H'14] went and formed the choir. It's because he'd be saying look, 'Y'all music sucks, you can't sing, and you don't know nothing.' And she was like, 'Well, all right, we'll see about that'. So that can be something that catalyzes you, too. Maybe it wouldn't have happened without him telling her [that]. But on the other side, what I experienced a lot of was white support, not writ large but certain key people, I mean they're really valuable. And that to me, that's the great part built into the DNA of Swarthmore that comes out of that Quaker consciousness that they're that tuned into that much getting more.
But it's a big reason why a lot of black folks went there because we saw... we knew the Quakers were with the Underground Railroad. We didn't know that it took a hundred years to get us some Negroes in there. Why? I have a theory. I'm sorry to say this, but it was a co-ed school when there weren't many co-ed schools, and it was the elite co-ed school. So all the elite schools where men and women colleges, and here comes Swarthmore, with a co-ed school. That's a Quaker idea. It's we think for ourselves and we think women are equal to men. And so, it's co-ed. Well, I think that was the reason why they didn't want to integrate, because they didn't want black men getting with white women. But [crosstalk 00:26:55].
Plummer: Don, when I did my interview, they actually asked me if I would go back to my high school and get some black guys to apply because they didn't have a good balance. And I did.
Mizell: The main thing is the co-ed thing, which was one of the main reasons I was interested in coming here. I didn't want to be around a bunch of hard heads, all week, maybe until the weekend. I wanted to be amongst the babes. [crosstalk 01:27:41].
George: So on that note, wanting to move on to the second question. I am really interested to know what the reception of the newly founded Black Cultural Centers. So you have a house in the middle of Swarthmore with a whole bunch of black students in it. What was the reception of the house within the College community, but also within the town of Swarthmore and the influence of the house on the surrounding area?
Plummer: Well, we certainly did some outreach programs to Chester and to the surrounding area. So I thought we got a lot of cultural support from the Black cultural community in Chester. Even during the crisis, they were a lot of people in the adult community that came forth and yeah, absolutely supported us and that effort. And it was kind of going on around campuses. I think that the chief difference is we were not... Where at some of the larger campuses where they were less nerdy than we were, they were pulling off bras and hauling rifles. And we were basically negotiating to hire lawyers, when they say we can't do this or what does the Robinson family think? So we hire a lawyer and say, go talk to them. And we had this sort of Swarthmorean kind of responses to things. No guns, because this was the power and this is what we loaded [points to head].
Mizell: No sticks.
Plummer: No, just the burning torches. But that was symbolic and was understood to be symbolic. Because as you said, President Cross was really a good guy. There were some things, like when we did a scholarship fund for the kids in Chester, he said, as much as I was able to raise that he would match it. He was supportive. He did have the issue of the Board of Managers. So a lot of what we were doing was actually directed to the Board of Managers to sort of let them know, oh we can be disruptive, in the same way that we got to interstate commerce costs because we were disruptive. And they said, "well, we better find a way to stop these folks." But it was really receptive. Then the other thing is, you say the middle of the campus would actually, we consider that house to be sort of off the campus, just a little notch off the campus. So when we crossed that street, it was like, phew. Because one of the things that it helped me do was suppress my anger, handle my anger.
I had one kind of experience, and I don't know why it is, why my karma... But, one experience was, I'm walking across the campus, leaving Sharples headed towards Willets. There was one young lady who was from the south, a student, who had a sort of hotdog dog. You know those long dogs? Whenever I would walk in her space, she would yell out, 'Sambo!' Then, I'm ready for... Okay? 'I'm just talking to my dog.' I wouldn't call that a microaggression. It was to me, a declaration of war. But, for the fact that I had this black house that I could say, 'You know what? This is not a battle worth fighting. Go over here, get your peace, do your work, graduate and take care of this B when you're out of here.' But, I needed that. If I didn't have that place to go to where I could watch Star Trek, laugh about Captain Kirk being the West, Spock being the East, and Uhuru being this fabulous African sister, right? I might have poisoned that dog, who it really wasn't his fault.
George: Can we have one other action to that, the question?
Rich: The movement that we were in also was alongside of the one that was going on for their protest against the Vietnam War. We were also fighting for the freedom of Angela Davis because her sister graduated from here, finally graduated from here. So, that was very important in our spirit of rallying together, being active, and standing up.
Plummer: Yeah. That's when the FBI came in.
Rich: Yeah, they definitely came in.
Mizell: That was another, 'wow.' Wild.
Plummer: They were so obvious.
Mizell: If they didn't get you to carry guns, they tried to-
Plummer: Set you up, set you up.
Mizell: They tried to trap me. They took me to a house in Philly to recruit me you be... They said, 'You're brilliant. We love it. We see you. You're doing this and you're doing that. You're the leader. We're going to have these high school kids come into this house...'
Plummer: Oh, yes. I remember.
Mizell: 'And you should move in here for the summer.' I don't know if it was God or whatever, but I just was like, 'I don't think so. I think I want to go to New York.' [inaudible 00:01:33:11].
Plummer: Right. Chill out for the summer.
Mizell: Chill. I'm not really trying to be the leader of Philadelphia high school students. They were trying to [crosstalk 01:33:18]-
Plummer: And putting these kids out here on the street in front of [Philadelphia Police Chief Frank] Rizzo and his stick.
Mizell: Then, they're going to put you in jail. They sent a double agent to trap me, and it came out in the news when we got back that fall. It was the front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer. I saw a picture of the guy and said, 'That's the guy that tried to get me.'
Plummer: I think they raided the FBI office.
Mizell: You know who I'm talking about?
White: Yeah, I know who you're talking about.
Plummer: Oh, he was so friendly.
Mizell: Friendly, and he was a double agent.
Plummer: Yes. He was going to teach us leadership skills.
Mizell: I'm telling you, man. The FBI. Then, when they got the files and liberated it, and I got mine. They sent me mine. It was a file on the top of the thing from the FBI, which is in the file. It says, "This is the most dangerous type of militant of all. He is reasonable and convincing.'
Plummer: We know because we trained him.
Mizell: It was signed 'J. Edgar Hoover' in his handwriting. J. Edgar Hoover was going to get me for being reasonable and convincing.
Plummer: That's how it works.
Mizell: That makes him the most dangerous. Well, that gave me the willies. You got to be kidding me.
Plummer: Sorry. We told you. We warned you, we were going to go off script.
George: I wanted to ask one final question. Starting with Ms. Rich, because you had mentioned how important it was to you that the Black Cultural Center is still a Black Cultural Center. Knowing that this center comes out of a history of organizing on college campuses with black students throughout the 1960s, the fact that the center is still the center says a lot because a lot of centers have actually transitioned into being intercultural centers. What does it mean for you to have a black cultural center that you can return to as an alumni?
Rich: It's super important. It's a part of going home. Okay, you go, you're researching your roots, wherever they happen to be, whether they're United States or in whatever particular state they are, whatever farm your parents came from, then it's whatever ship they might've come on and then whatever island, maybe, they passed through, then hopefully back to continent, and you can find out where you actually generated from.
So, it's important to have a center. Everybody needs a center. We need our center. It's just classic theory of being in balance to know where your center is, to stand on it, and to work around it. You have to have it. If you lose your center here, you're just going to be like leaves blowing in the wind every which way. It's hard enough as it is right now for our people because of the trauma that we've been through, the post traumatic stress, enslaved person syndrome and all these different things. It's hard enough for us to have an identity as it is. It's hard for people, it seems, to come together and say that they're African people for some strange reason, but I think it's because of all the negative stereotyping that we've had. We have put a lot of energy into the years that we have been in the United States, the hundreds of years and even before maybe the enslavement happened. So, we do have a lot of blood in the land. Yes, we do. We absolutely do.
But, they say, 'What's good enough for...' How does it go again? Something that's good enough for me, it was good enough for grandma. If you go all the way back in respecting your elders, you have to reach back to the roots, which is Africa. It's always going to be that, and we have to have our centers. We're all over the world. In each place that we are as pan Africans, we have to have a center.
This college is very important. It's always been highly regarded as breeding and turning out people who are about doing good things in society and who are intellectually geared. That's great, but it's also about the character of the person. You don't want to turn out a bunch of intellectuals who are geared in keeping classism and a top tier and a bottom tier. It's super important that you hold on to the Black Cultural Center.
Plummer: I actually pray that you keep the 'black' in it because to me, not only because our spirit is there, but because black is not a color. It's not a race. It's a statement that we are unabashedly proud of that part of us that you guys hate without reason. It crosses continents. It doesn't matter what country you're from. I don't want a Jamaican telling me that they're different from me simply because they speak a different language and have a different way of eating. It's irrelevant. It's the part of you that the world has been indoctrinated to hate, that we have to embrace. Because the rest of it takes care of itself. Nobody hates the Irish in me. They hate that 75 percent Yoruban. It's got to be black.
Mizell: I hate the Irish in you.
Rich: Don Mizell was the reason that a lot of people came into consciousness. When I came here, I was conscious. We had our 'fros and stuff like that. A clear consciousness turn is what he led a lot of us to, including our culture, the music and jazz, and all that kind of thing. So, I have to give him his props for that. He's always been a very, very thinking leader.
Stanley: Don was cosmic.
Mizell: That was my nickname. Dr. Cosmo. I was out there.
Plummer: But, please, also reach out. If it's going to be a center of culture, which it should be in order to remain solid and to expand, then it should reach out and it should provide some programming that also appeals to the black community and to people in the white community who are interested in being involved that way. What she was saying about the multiculturalism, it's a beautiful thing to know all kinds of people. I'm fascinated by all of that. But, what I find politically, is whenever they talk about that, that's just a way of diluting the debt that is owed to the descendants of former enslaved Africans and indigenous people in America.
Mizell: I'm prompted to think about forming a Friends of The Black Cultural Center group, a cadre to look closely at after 50 years, what is the status, the state of the condition of the center in a way that might help figure out how to maintain its viability, expand its relevance, and heighten its impact in going forward the next 50 years, because of its state and pivotal role in the history of the college. But, 50 years of growth, you've got to understand. People like Maurice Eldridge, 25 years, had a lot to do with smoothing out better, because it wasn't always so welcomed. It was controversial periodically. Right-wing, redneck assholes would jump up and try to do diminish, demean, or divert i's validity. That lessened over time, especially after Maurice got in there, because he had the sensitivity and the right understanding of how to navigate to make things not go back.
First of all, when you start going back, you're done. That didn't really happen. It stayed the same or it got better, and it's viable right now. But, I have a feeling that it's not really in the position and needs to be going forward in order to protect and enhance the value of what it really is for the campus, but also for Swarthmore itself, which is a part that needs to be looked at. The Black Cultural Center is not for white people to come up in there and act like they're white or black or none of that. But, it should be a mechanism, a vehicle, and a platform from which the white population could be educated in certain ways about the cultural dynamics that they're unaware of or don't have a proper appreciation of. I think, maybe I think some formulation of a small group to really just lock in on the BCC, not the alumni, the multi-intercultural whatever, but the Black Cultural Center. Because if we understand culture in the right way, it's not just, 'Where the party at?'
White: I have, actually, a question. What's the status of SAS?
White: Okay. Fair number of black students participate?
George: Yes, but I would also say that it's expanded. So, SASS, being the African American Student Society, has been expanded, obviously, as we've gotten more international students and different expressions of blackness. There is now SOCA, which is the Students of Caribbean Ancestry, which is its own organization. Also SASA, which is Swarthmore African Student Association.
Plummer: Is there a relationship between those organizations? Because what happened with us is, we had people from different places, but ultimately we were Pan-African. Ultimately, we were black. Even though it was fun to see the differences, but we basically had a shared agenda. So, I'm curious within the separations, because what I notice in society outside of the college is that suddenly, people who are from some of the islands are certainly not black. I don't understand that. I don't understand, except as part of the move to enforce a kind of disrespect and hate on Black Americans. It's part of the international propaganda that affects us all.
George: I think that the understanding that all black students have is that they are black when they come onto this campus. I think, for me as a Nigerian American student, I know that my experience as a Black American is separate from my experience as the daughter of Nigerian diaspora. So, wanting to find a space where I can meet other people of the diaspora and also to come into camaraderie around that experience. I think it's important for folks to have different spaces, but ultimately everyone recognizes that we all share in the same experience.