Friday, May 29, 2009

Immortal Technique Freestyle

Sunday, May 03, 2009

40th Anniversary of City College Student Strike
Sorry I did not get this up in time, but I would still like to show my solidarity with the movement that began 40 years ago. The article below was written by one of the students who took part in that movement and is still involved in the struggle that has not ended.
Memories of April-May 1969 at Harlem University (a/k/a CCNY)
by, Ronald B. McGuire

April 22nd marks the 40th anniversary of the beginning of the City College student strike led by Black and Puerto Rican students that won Open Admissions and established ethnic studies departments at all CUNY colleges. Alumni, students, faculty and community members will gather at Remembrance Rock on Liberation Hill on the South Campus of Harlem University (a/k/a City College) next Wednesday, April 22nd at noon to commemorate the 1969 Black and Puerto Rican Student Strike and the 20th anniversary of the 1989 CUNY student strike that also began at City College. We will share our memories, and our hopes and we will rededicate ourselves to continuing the struggle to realize the vision of the 1969 and 1989 student strikers. What follows are some of my memories of the events of April-May 1969 at City College.
On April 22, 1969 250 Black and Puerto Rican students occupied the South Campus at City College and renamed CCNY "Harlem University". The strike was the culmination of a campaign that began in Fall 1968 in which the "Black and Puerto Rican Student Community" raised 5 demands:1. A School of Black and Puerto Rican Studies (later reformulated as a demand for a School of Third World Studies), 2. A separate freshman orientation program for Black and Puerto Rican students,3. A voice for students in setting the guidelines and governance of the SEEK program, including the hiring and firing of faculty,4. A revised admissions formula that would insure that Black and Puerto Rican students would comprise a proportion of the freshman class at least equal to the proportion of Black and Puerto Rican students in New York City public high schools and,5. A requirement that all education majors take courses in the Spanish language and Black and Puerto Rican history.Classes never resumed on a normal basis after April 22nd. White students supporting the strike occupied Klapper Hall (the old School of Education building) and renamed it "Huey P. Newton Hall for Political Action" after the co-founder of the Black Panther Party. Thousands of residents of Harlem marched to City College in support of the Black and Puerto Rican students who were joined by national and local leaders including Kathleen Cleaver, Betty Shabazz, H. Rap Brown and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. and cultural figures, including Queen Mother Audley Moore.
The occupations were mostly peaceful, although there were some instances of violence. An undercover cop who had infiltrated the occupied buildings was discovered, interrogated and beaten before being released at a press conference called by the Black and Puerto Rican students. That night the Black and Puerto Rican students reported that police fired shots at the occupied buildings on South Campus. I witnessed a gang of anti-strike students systematically and viciously beat a white strike supporter outside Newton Hall. It was a frightening time. The tremendous support of the Harlem Community sustained us during the siege of the occupied buildings. Queen Mother Moore was a tremendous inspiration to all of us, including the white strikers.

The occupations of South Campus and Klapper Hall continued for two weeks until May 5th when a New York State Supreme Court injunction was served on the students. The Black and Puerto Rican leadership decided to end the occupations but to continue the strike. Students who continued to go to class were considered "scabs" as hundreds of police in riot gear occupied the campus in a vain attempt to keep classes open. There were pitched battles between supporters of the strike and white students who opposed the 5 demands and wanted to return to class. Many white faculty and students feared that open admissions would lower academic standards and jeopardize City College's reputation as the "proletarian Harvard". The strikers, who included Black Panthers, SNCC organizers and students who would later become organizers of the Young Lords Party, were determined to integrate City College and establish ethnic studies "by any means necessary". Hundreds of Black, Puerto Rican, Asian and white students confronted police and white student "scabs" who unsuccessfully tried to open classes. About a dozen supporters of the strike were arrested and several were expelled. A number of students were hospitalized from injuries in the fighting. Students used concrete rebar, steel rods, rocks and bottles as weapons as strikers fought strike breakers.While students battled students and students battled cops, City College President Buell Gallagher began negotiations on the five demands with a delegation of the Black and Puerto Rican students and leaders of City College's faculty senate. The preparation of the students for the negotiations was extraordinary. Three student negotiators held their own against faculty, administrators, trustees and, eventually the political leadership of New York. The student negotiators were Charles Powell, Rick Reed and Serge Mullery. They came to the negotiating table armed with facts but more importantly, imbued with a vision of the historical inevitability of a new CUNY redefined by its special mission to the children of the African and Latin American diasporas. The student negotiators and the Black and Puerto Rican strikers understood that the historical imperative for integrating City College as the culmination of the struggle for learning and self determination that dated from the struggle against slavery and the fight of the Boriquenos against the conquistadors and Yankee imperialism. The faculty and administrators were simply overwhelmed by students who not only would not defer to their authority, but whose command of the facts was only matched by their command of the political forces on the campus and in the community. The negotiations transformed Open Admissions from a radical dream to the inevitable convergence of the visions of Frederick Douglass and Townshend Harris at City College in Harlem. One of the two principal faculty negotiators, Dean Robert Young (the director of SEEK at CCNY), said: "You must understand, these students were organized, they were deliberate, and sometimes - politically speaking - intimidating. They knew when to raise questions, when to insist on going into caucus, or to place the administration into a position that could best be described as 'ill at ease'". Bernard Bellush, the Chair of the Faculty Senate was the second principal faculty negotiator. Professor Bellush later said "faculty are not trained to face up to an organized group of students who feel they are right, who in the process of negotiations are making clear they are not acting in the role of subservient students. Faculty were terribly shaken, psychologically, educationally - whichever way you put it". Conrad Dyer, "Protest and the Politics of Open Admissions" , (dissertation, CUNY, 1990) p.133-134.By May 5th the City College Black and Puerto Rican faculty issued a press release supporting the strike. The white faculty remained divided. The non-tenured faculty opposed the use of force while the nearly all white tenured faculty demanded the immediate resumption of classes. Eventually the tenured faculty staged a "coup" and voted separately from the non-tenured majority to demand that the administration open the campus and take a tough line with the strikers.
However, the students gained the upper hand in the negotiations. After calling on experts to demonstrate the economic and educational viability of a new admissions model, and engaging the faculty and administration in nearly non-stop round the clock negotiations, the faculty negotiators began seriously discussing implementation of the five demands, including a new admissions policy. Eventually even President Gallagher appeared to be won over to the essence of the five demands and he called on the CUNY Trustees to join the discussions on implementation. However, as Gallagher's position softened, the trustees became intransigent. The trustees refused to rejoin the negotiations and ordered Gallagher to use the police to break the strike, with force, if necessary.

The turning point of the strike came in the days between May 6th and May 8th during one of the most frightening weeks in City College's history. The CUNY trustees had refused Gallagher's request to join the negotiations with the students and May 6th began with pitched battles raging between students supporting and opposing the strike. That week hundreds of striking students successfully staged marches to close classes despite the attempts of hundreds of riot cops to stop our marches, which grew every day. About a dozen black students and two white students supporting the strike were arrested by the riot cops. No anti-strike students were arrested.
On May 7th approximately 400 white students opposing the strike held a rally on the North Campus and marched to the South Campus chasing and sometimes beating Black and Latino students and white students with strike armbands. While the mob chased strike supporters several hundred cops marched in formation along Convent Avenue, but did nothing to interfere with the attacks as long as the racists had the upper hand. The white mob swept through the South Campus (the stronghold of the strike) and finally cornered what appeared to be the last group of 30 Black students on campus at the gate by Wagner Hall at Saint Nicholas Terrace. Most of the 30 trapped Black students attempted to flee the mob, climbing over the fence to escape into Harlem. However, four young Black women stood and faced the mob at the locked gate and eventually the other students who had climbed over the fence came back over the fence and stood shoulder to shoulder with their comrades facing the mob that now numbered about two hundred. Students from both sides grabbed tree branches and rocks and in a furious battle the 30 Black students routed the much larger white mob in a fight that broke the back of the organized student resistance to the strike and sent seven white students to the hospital. Guillermo Morales was one of the activists who led the Black and Puerto Rican students in the battle at the Wagner Hall gate.

A day or two later I met with one of the leaders of the anti-strike students who went to high school with me. He explained that he had come to realize that we had to get the cops off campus before classes could resume and if the College had to take in more Black and Latino students to end the strike, then he and his followers were willing to accept the price. Many of the former strike breakers joined our marches demanding the removal of the cops and a resumption of negotiations to implement the five demands.
Gallagher's last attempt to open the campus ended in disaster on May 8th. As hundreds of NYPD riot police patrolled the campus, and set up check points, the Aronow auditorium in the old Finley Student Center was engulfed in flames and destroyed by fire as eleven fires were reported on the campus that day. Deputy Chancellor Seymour Hyman rushed to the campus. At a meeting that night Hyman said that as he stood outside the smouldering ruins of Aronow Auditorium "the only question in my mind was, How can we save City College? And the only answer was, Hell, let everybody in."
Gallagher was broken by the violence of May 8th and the refusal of the Board to resume negotiations with the students. The Board ordered Gallagher to stay the course and use whatever force was necessary to open the campus the next day. Instead, on May 9th, Gallagher announced his resignation, effective on Monday, May 12th. The CUNY Board appointed as interim President Joseph Copeland, the most vociferous spokesman for the faculty who opposed the strike and an outspoken advocate of using all force necessary to break the strike.
Gallagher's resignation and the intensity of the strike turned the tide in favor of Open Admissions among the white faculty. In an extraordinary session on May 12th the faculty senate heard presentations from clergy and community leaders from Harlem before adopting a resolution proposed by the SEEK Director Robert Young and backed by the Black and Puerto Rican faculty calling for closing of the college, the removal of the police and the resumption of the negotiations which had been broken off by the CUNY Board. Copeland rejected the Senate resolution and refused to remove the police. Many faculty canceled their classes anyway.The daily marches by strike supporters continued to grow, our ranks swollen by white students who saw a resumption of negotiations and a new admissions policy to admit more Black and Puerto Rican students as the only way to re-open the campus. The police were unable to contain the marchers who succeeded in keeping most classes closed or empty.
On May 15th Black elected officials and civic leaders converged on the CCNY Administration Building in an extraordinary meeting with the student negotiators and representatives of CUNY. That afternoon I was one of about a thousand strike supporters waiting in front of the Administration Building for word from the student negotiators. Finally the student negotiators told us that CUNY agreed to accept the five demands, including the new admissions policy, and that negotiations would begin on implementing the demands. The leadership of the Black and Puerto Rican Student Community called for a moratorium on further campus disruptions. The faculty voted to give students a pass or no pass alternative to letter grades for the Spring 1969 term and negotiations over implementation of the five demands began.On July 9, 1969 the Board of Higher Education passed the Open Admissions Resolution that established open admissions at CUNY beginning in September 1970; required every CUNY campus to immediately create departments or programs in ethnic studies and committed CUNY to striving for "national preeminence" in ethnic studies, authorized the colleges to establish supplemental freshman orientation programs for Black and Puerto Rican students to deal with issues concerning racism and ratified the decision of the City College Faculty to make the study of Black and Puerto Rican History and the Spanish Language requirements for all education majors.

CUNY became the first public university system in America to establish an open admissions gateway to baccalaureate degree programs as well as an institutional commitment to Black and Puerto Rican studies. Join the gathering at Remembrance Rock this Friday, April 22nd at 1:30 PM. The Rock is between Aaron Davis Hall and the Y Building about one block south of the South Campus Gate at 135th Street and Convent Avenue. The nearest subway stops are 137th Street on the 1 line or 125th Street on the A-B-C-D lines. The campus is within walking distance of the stations. There are also free purple school buses to the 135th Street gate from the 137th Street Station on the 1 line or the 145th Street station on the A-B-C-D lines. Transfer to the M-101 bus to 135th Street and Amsterdam Avenue is available at 125th street.In Loving Memory and Solidarity,Ron McGuire,
Harlem University, expelled, 1969

To get to Liberation Hill use the gate at 133rd Street and Convent Avenue.