No, no. Keeping standing. Keep standing.
You were inspired by Brandeis' students in 1969, who also demanded that their university turn a mirror to itself and address the presence of institutionalized racism and inequality. Some of you are with us today, so would the alumni of Ford Hall 1969, if you are able to, please stand and also give us the honor of recognizing you.
This is the proud legacy of AAAS, a legacy of struggle across generations to make Brandeis, this nation and, as Askia Touré powerfully articulated, this world, a better and more humane place. We are eternally thankful for your sacrifices and continued inspiration. And now, if I can pull myself together. It is my great honor to welcome to the stage some of the individuals who played a role in that great drama of January 1969, that we commonly know as Ford Hall. So would our panelists please come to the stage, if you wouldn't mind.
It's my pleasure to introduce Anita Abdal-Khallaq, class of 1972. Randall Bailey, class of 1969. Roy DeBerry, class of 1969 MA 1978, PhD ... oh, I'm sorry? '70, my bad and PhD 1979, did I get that one right? Okay, I'm good. Ricardo Millet, Class of 1968, master’s in social work 1971 and PhD 1974. Mr. Vere Plummer, Class of 1974. Helen Stewart, Class of 1980. And Patricia Van Story, Class of 1972. Another round of applause, please.
So hopefully, we can try and be as succinct as possible, but I know there's a lot of stories on this stage, right now. So I'm going to ask each of you a question and then we'll turn things over to the audience.
Anita, if you wouldn't mind, I’ll start with you. Brandeis, fall of 1968, can you take us back to that moment and give us a sense from your perspective of the mood on campus and what it was like to be a black student in that moment?
Anita Abdal-Khallaq: Well ... Oh, is it not on?
Hello, can you hear me? Okay.
Well, I have really been thinking about being a young black student in Ford Hall, but I know when I hit the campus, I had a been in Upward Bound, so I made a few friends, but when I hit the campus, I was excited about being there, about being here at Brandeis. My parents were excited about me being here. I remember my dad opening up that envelope and he said, I had applied to a lot of schools, I have nine sisters and brothers, he saw that scholarship, he said, "That's where you're going." He said, "You’ll go to school at Brandeis." I was so excited to be here, but in all honesty, when I got here, you know, we talked about this on the way here. My girlfriend and I, who has been my girlfriend for 51 years, she's my go-to girl and I met her here at Brandeis. But we talked about how we came from Roxbury and it seemed like we had traveled miles and miles to get to Brandeis.
We found out later, it was like 14 to 15 miles from Boston, but it was like being on the other side of the world. Being in this environment, we were the biggest class, there were 13 of us. So we were the big class, you know, but we just ... we bonded so quickly and so tightly. Another thing that we've talked about over the years, is that we regret that we were such ... it was just us, but we bonded with each other because we felt like we needed each other and we did not really associate with other students, so my girlfriend was saying, you know what Anita, that was the time. That was just the time that we were in and we needed each other. So it was good that that happened, although we have regrets about that the fact that we just got close like with the black students. And that's why when we went into Ford Hall, most of us went in, we just felt like we had to go in because those were our people in there. We had to be in there with them.
So, I'm not going to talk a long time, but I just think about how I had just been on the campus for a few months and went into Ford Hall and I remember being nervous, but I don't remember being scared. Can I go on?
And there was a couple of reasons ...
Chad: I'm not stopping anybody.
Anita A K: Okay, there were a couple of reasons, one was that early on, me and my girlfriend Annie Jones, who's in the audience, my go-to girl, my buddy, we were over the food, right away. We had a job. There was a little room, where I guess the people who work there had coffee, there was no microwaves, 'cause there weren't microwaves at the time, but there was a hot plate and there was a refrigerator and we had to see that everybody ate and that was our job. I don't remember being scared, at all, because I was so focused on doing my job. The other thing is, that I thought about over the years is that I was very fortunate in my parents. My parents were, all of our parents were afraid for us. They were afraid that we were going to get expelled from school, that we were gonna lose these scholarships that were so important. I'm sure a lot of parents might have been very worried that the police were going to come in on us with billy clubs.
And I was telling someone earlier today, when we were looking at the archives. I don't think, well, for one thing my parents were very much, all of our parents were involved in the struggle. My people have been involved in the struggle forever, but my parents were very much involved, they had opened an African gift shop in Roxbury, A Nubian Notion. My parents, my brothers and my dad cut almost every Afro in Roxbury. They were barbers. My daddy took us to see Stokely Carmichael when I was in high school. He was in the Nation of Islam. So we were very much involved in the movement. The other thing, so they understood what I was doing and they were very supportive of me. My brother had gone to the South as a freedom rider, and the other thing I think why they weren't afraid, I was saying this to someone, was that when they moved to Roxbury in 1945, they were surrounded by Jewish families and Jewish businesses. My sisters and brothers, their friends were Harry and Mary Rogoff.
I wasn't because I came along a little later, but I heard these names. We went to Rosenthal's to get our shoes. My sister went to Rose Sydman, to dancing school, Kasanof's was right around the corner. My parent had relationships with Jewish people and I think that they felt like I wasn't going to be harmed that way. I think they really...well, they told me later that they felt that way. So I'm just saying that to say that they were able to be supportive. I very much appreciated their support over the years as I became a mother and a grandmother. So I'm done. Thank you.
Chad: No, that's great. Thank you.
So Roy, you were President of...we got some other microphones there. You were President of the Afro American Society and at the forefront of the attempts to negotiate with then-President Morris Abrams. There'd been a series of demands issued the previous year, including the creation of an African and Afro-American Studies concentration that the faculty had in fact, approved. But the central demand of the protest in 1969 was the creation of an African and Afro-American Studies department with the power to hire and fire and you also wanted the ability to select, or at least have influence in the selection, of the chairman and the faculty of the department, which became one of the key points of contention. Right? So why was a department, a department of African and Afro-American Studies so important, as opposed to a concentration or a program? And why was it important to have some say? Some influence in the selection of the department chair and the department's faculty?
Roy DeBerry: Thank you. Everybody can hear me? Good afternoon. [inaudible], before I answer your question, I sound like a politician, I'm gonna to get to your question, but-
Chad: Got it. Got it.
Roy DeBerry: I think we need to add just a little bit of a context.
Chad: Absolutely, sure.
Roy DeBerry: Anita had talked about her background. Mine was a little different. I came out of Mississippi and I came to Brandeis, initially in 1965. I had come right out of jail, as a matter of fact. I had been jailed and attacked in Mississippi in 1965 for demonstrating and supporting the voting rights act which Johnson later signed. So I came to attend a program called the [Carnegie] program, which was put together by Bill Goldsmith and Cohen. I did that summer and it was decided that perhaps I needed a little bit more work. This was a little bit different from TYP, Bob Jones who was here with us had gone to a Yale program which was, again, a forerunner of the TYP program.
So I did a sort of a route where I went to Commonwealth School for a year in Boston, before I came back to Brandeis in 1966. One of the things that I noticed when I first came to Brandeis was that the small number of students in my class, I think there were eight or nine, maybe ten, at the most. A [inaudible], who was a graduate of Brandeis in 1959 had worked as a SNC volunteer and I had been a young SNC volunteer as well, there in Mississippi and she was the first person to tell me about Brandeis. About a school devoted to social justice.
Matter of fact, she talked a lot about the fact that's what Brandeis was about, in addition to having terrific teachers. So clearly, while I had not heard of Brandeis, I was excited about the fact of coming North for the first time, and that was a story in itself. Not only just dealing with Brandeis, but just coming to Boston from Mississippi because I flew in for the first time, flew in to Logan, took a train out from Logan to Brandeis, to Waltham and I made the mistake of speaking to someone.
Now, as you know in the South, it's very common to say good morning, good afternoon, good night. So I had been trained to do that, so that's what I did. Of course, I didn't get a response. So I went back home, right after that and I made the mistake of somebody speaking to me, and I didn't return. I was quickly told, "You've been up North too long," although I had been there only a few weeks.
Again, we'll get to your question. There's a brochure that was put together by the students back in 1968 and the reason why I wanted to do that is because apparently, it was the first brochure that as a group, as a collective, that the students had put together. Of course, as a way, we were trying to send out a recruitment bulletin. I was there, Morris Abrams was in it, a number of other students. Anne Sapp, Bob Jones, [inaudible], Vere, Reggie Sapp, you name it.
But here's a statement that was written by the President, Abrams back in 1968, because we, even though he was quick to tell us this was not an official document, but he was gonna support it. So here is his statement: "This brochure is written and published by the black students at Brandeis University, under the auspices of the Brandeis African American Society. Thus, this is not an official publication of the university and as a matter of fact, I and other officials of the University will take issue with some of the judgments and observations made by these students."
The President wanted to make it very clear, this was not their publication. It was our publication. Glenn McNatt, who later went on to work for Time Magazine, I think recently passed away, was the editor at the Baltimore newspaper, was the editor of this publication, along with Patricia, who is here with us, Sandra Hughes, who is no longer with us, Ralph Norman, the great photographer, who took pictures and we used those pictures to put in the brochure, and Fred Hamlet, who I think is no longer with us, as well.
Ricardo Millet: Freddie's here. Freddie's here.
Roy DeBerry: Oh. My bad. I ...
Chad: Fact check. Fact check.
Roy DeBerry: He's passed away, hasn't he? Okay. So he used to-
Chad: There might be a lot of fact checking going on up here, we'll see.
Roy DeBerry: My bad. But as you get older, as a brother said earlier, you know, your memory starts to slip, yeah. Anyway, back to your question.
So, I would was saying, there was a climate that we had to set, there were a number of things happened before Ford Hall. We had our lives too, we had classes to go to, we had our own lives to deal with, whether they's social, whatever. We engaged the university, we engaged President [Sachar]. A compelling story, which I'll tell, having to do with Dr. Sachar, and I don't know who was with me, when I went over to the office, but at the time we had demanded five Martin Luther King scholarships. We went to see Dr. Sachar, he says, "I'll up that, I'll give you ten." Negotiation is over. When you go to ask for five and they give you ten, there's no longer need to negotiate, right? It's over.
I think Abrams was a different animal. A different persona, a different person and the negotiation kind of got off on the wrong foot.
Chad: Right, right.
Roy DeBerry: I think we had been negotiating throughout the spring, throughout the summer, about a number of things. A bunch of committees had been put together and we started to see not much action. Then, of course, the assassination of Dr. King was an impetus as you just talked about. At that point in time, I think we collectively, I don't think it was individually, I think we collectively decided that some action needed to be taken. Some bold action needed to be taken to at least get the attention of the officials.
That's the center of why we took over Ford Hall. In the process, because we had talked about Black Studies, we felt very strongly that we needed a department. Not something that's gonna last for a few weeks, or a few months. Not something that was not gonna be funded well, we wanted to again have a viable department. With that, we also wanted to have professors which we mentioned as well, and we also wanted to see the real effort to recruit more students of color.
Roy DeBerry: So those were the three core demands. We had others, but those were core. It took us nine or ten days, obviously we came out, we got majority of those demands, but we didn't get all of 'em. But I think we were right, in fact that we demanded it be a department and the fact that we are here 50 years later is a legacy to that.
Chad: Definitely. Thank you.
Roy DeBerry: Sorry about that, Fred!
Chad: So, Ricardo, you graduated in the fall of 1968?
Ricardo Millet: Correct.
Chad: And you were a first year student in the Heller School in '69. So you had seen the really dramatic evolution of the situation, the condition, the numbers of black students on campus kind of culminating in January of 1969, right? So this just didn't emerge out of a vacuum, as Roy was speaking to. There was many precursors to the eventual occupation of Ford Hall. I'm wondering if you could speak to your perspective as, if you don't mind me saying, one of the older students in the protest, someone who was perhaps coming at the black experience from your own unique perspective. What did those early moments, in Ford Hall mean to you?
Ricardo Millet: Yes, I am the old one in the pile.
Chad: I was trying to put it as carefully as I could.
Ricardo Millet: Come May, I'll be 74, and still kicking.
Ricardo Millet: I think Roy got a good amount of the background shared with you. One critical thing that he might have forgotten to mention, was the effort to get more responsiveness from the university in terms of black courses, black faculty, greater student body sort of culminated at some point in '67 or so, for a TYP program. A transitional year program. It took some time for us to negotiate the TYP program, but something happened in '67, '68 that made the university decide to curtail the TYP program.
Now that triggered us to the hilt. We decided that negotiating for something that could be easily taken away was not strong or smart negotiations. So deciding to go forward, we didn't want another TYP, we wanted a permanent department. We wanted to go for broke. Now, I was a Wien student, and it was kind of a crazy thing for me to think that I could stand up and still stay in this country. As a matter of fact, the Wien department was smart enough to call the immigration office, who got a message to me, "Boy, you want to get back home." They already called my Mama, she's trying to get to me, "Son, what you doing?" So the pressure from my mother, from Wien, from everybody else to get out of that building and not pursue this craziness was overwhelming.
But nothing could get me away from that stance, because there would be nothing of me left if I did. In any event, we were persuaded that there was some responsiveness in a notion of truth unto its innermost parts. This university, I think has a set of values and character that made that moral persuasion and that philosophical insight into the soul, truth unto its innermost parts, that what we were demanding wasn't that outrageous. What we were trying to do was to fill the integrity of this great institution with one corner of a niche. I think the rest of my colleagues can provide some more distinctive insight into this.
Roy DeBerry: Thank you. Amen.
Chad: So Helen, like Ricardo, you were also a graduate student at the time.
Helen Stewart: Older.
Speaker 7: You look good, though.
Chad: Absolutely…in the sociology department. So maybe we can kind of put a sociological lens on this phenomenon of Ford Hall. I always caution my students about using the term “black community” too loosely, and I think that's been alluded to, the black community at Brandeis was very diverse and very complex. Even with its limited size, still very diverse and complex. You had graduate students, undergraduates. Folks from Boston, not from Boston. TYP, non-TYP, Wien, et cetera, et cetera. Latino students, as well.
This doesn't even get into the ideological differences, intentions that existed, right? So, as Ford Hall is occupied and it's clear that this isn't going to come to an end overnight, how did some of those differences manifest themselves?
Helen Stewart: Well, I'm glad you're asking a sociologist, because you know, in so many ways, I came to Brandeis as an intellectual, you know, I mean, I didn't belong anywhere. My father, I'm third generation Boston, but we lived all over the world. So I was an outsider. So I came for the intellectual depth and some of the best sociologists in the country, at that time, were here at Brandeis University.
I think it ranked, for a young school, it ranked tenth in the nation, at that time in the Soc department. So I was a sociologist, you see, and then one day, I write a paper, I was a graduate student, I had already had a master’s degree. I wrote a 40-page paper for one of my professors, who thumbed through it like that, and said, "Oh, I can't read this," and put it back down on the desk.
I walked out, I left Brandeis and I didn't return for three years. Later, when I finally, at long last, finished the dissertation and did my defense, that professor was there and praised my work. My phenomenological, sociological work, and asked to write a book with me. Something was wrong. Something was wrong with the nature of higher education. Something was wrong with me, thinking that I was all alone in the world, when I wasn't.
So, when Ford Hall came along, I found community and I approached it, you know, being the ... whatever I was at the time, I read the demands. I wanted to make sure this was something I could go along with, you know. I mean, I wasn't just gonna join to join. I'm not a joiner. But the statements were really thoughtful and well-focused. I went on later in my career to become an academic vice president and provost and I know how hiring and firing, very little firing happens in universities.
I understood the innocence of not understanding academic governance structures. But the essence of the qualities, the thinking, the depth, the integrity of the statements that came out of this group of folks and I was just in the back hanging out, doing things and mimeographs and other things. I was not a leader. I began to realize that this is something important, serious and the core issue this- in order to survive, this must be a department.
Otherwise, they come and go, people come and go and I think the University going forward really wants to take a look at all of these dual appointments, because when so many faculty of color have joint appointments and triple appointments and quadruple appointments, when things get tough their retreat rights are going to be among the other colored folks. Not in the English department, or the History department, or these other places.
So, my respect. Some of the people on this stage, I mean, I haven't seen forever. But the sense of honor and respect and love for what happened, and inside Ford Hall was tough. There were divisions in Ford Hall. There were people who disagreed with what appropriate action should be. I was afraid for my life. In Roxbury where I lived, in Brookline, actually, in our apartment, Stokely Carmichael and Eldridge and Catherine Cleaver and all these folks were staying at our house, but in Ford Hall, folks thought I was an agent of the FBI. So I was like...
You know, my...my friends are losing their security clearance on the one hand and then I had to be an agent on the other. I still didn't belong. But the Brandeis education marked me, the Brandeis black community marked me. I'm looking at Hortense, here and Karen Fields and all these...I mean, you know, it's like old home week. I don't know if you ever saw the 25th anniversary of Motown, where everybody was hanging out backstage and hugging and stuff. I have seen people that I have loved and respected for all these 50 years, today.
First day back, at Brandeis since I finished. So, all of us, we're getting old, all of you are gonna be climbing up the stairs the way we do one day, too. Take with you both the mind that Brandeis gives and the heart that community gives, and pay it forward.
Chad: Vere, I'm wondering if you could kind of continue on that theme, of community and what it was like for you, maybe you were...were you a first year student? At the time?
Vere Plummer: TYP.
Chad: You were TYP. Okay. So what it was like as a TYP student, stepping into that environment, the rifts that came along with that. But also the sense of community, how community was created. I'm thinking especially in terms of the broader black community in Boston, which I know played a key role in the protest, as well.
Vere Plummer: Okay. I came to Brandeis, I was avoiding the school to prison pipeline. For real. For real. For real, for real. I was recruited for Brandeis TYP Program, which is the reason why I didn't go to jail and I went to college. So, there was a group of us, TYP who came from backgrounds that were not necessarily geared towards college and we were very grateful to be here.
Grateful for the students who brought us here, because they did a magnificent job. When we got here, we were grateful to Brandeis, 'cause Brandeis was providing us with an opportunity to get an education, but changing the trajectory of our lives. So we were grateful to them until we found out that Brandeis, they made promises, they did a lot of good things, but they weren't following through.
That was very disheartening to us, because we had high expectations and that brought us down. Several of us, we caucused and we watched the leadership move and negotiate with the administration and there was a lot of activity. Each time we were expecting some progress, we got disappointment. Randy, Roy, Ricardo, Lloyd Daniels and a bunch of other people were pressing intelligently and steadfastly for these demands and we were getting nowhere but disappointed.
But during that time, we were building a black community, because that's what the students who brought us here wanted. So now we had more students and we started building a black community. We started having social dinners and nightly events and bringing our entertainment. We brought entertainment out from Boston. We created a black community right here, at Brandeis. That's what was going on before Ford Hall.
We put on those soul food dinners, we were working together. We had those meetings, we were all working together and we were working together 'cause we didn't have any choice, 'cause we had to stick together. Something like being in Mississippi, you don't have a choice down there, you have to stick together or you die. So, we were building a community and then we had a meeting in Ford Hall, one afternoon. San Francisco state representative came in to talk, it was a big meeting, a lot of people there. Mostly, the community was there.
The gentleman that was speaking, he kept talking about seeing things that we were experiencing here, and that is, the disappointments and the games. You know, how when Martin Luther King got killed, everybody said, "Oh yeah, we're gonna take care of this. We're gonna give you, give you..." They made a bunch of promises to assuage our anger, okay? And to take care of the guilt. But when it came down to pushing the bottom line, that wasn't happening. Each time, we got disappointment after disappointment after disappointment after disappointment after disappointment. Those of us who had just gotten here felt like we wanted to do something, but we didn't know what to do. There was nothing to do.
Until this guy came, and it was very apparent to everybody in that room what was happening. That the University was giving us the run around and selling us a bag of goods. A young student, a TYP student, his name was Richard Ricardo Bowles. He got up during the talk, he came over to me, he took me outside, he said we gotta do something now. Right now. I said, "What?" He said, "Take over the building." I said, "All right, let's go on." He said, "No, no," he said, "we gotta do this and then we'll tell 'em," and that's what happened. That's exactly what happened.
We were in Ford Hall, this big meeting, he and I left. We put the few plans together and we figured out what we needed. One, we had to take over the communications. Two, we had to secure the doors. Oh, no. Two, we had to get everybody out the building. Three, we had to secure the doors and then we had to do the barricades. What we did was, we went around the room. People are in the meeting, and we started recruiting people. Ed Red, Kenny Still, Lloyd Corbin, different people.
I can't think of all their names. We pulled people out for particular reasons, to do those tasks. Now, I was talking to Candy...Anita, earlier today, she'll remember. I don't know if Annie remembers. But I recruited them to take over the switchboard. Those two women took over the switchboard room. I saw some correspondence or something saying ten people came in and took over the switchboard room. That's not true. Annie and Candy took over the switchboard room. That's the truth.
One of the reasons why is because we wanted to keep peace. We didn't want any violence. We was gonna win this. We was in it to win it, okay? And we did. But that was our approach. It was very peaceful and we were combining approaches, actually, in terms of our ideology with Malcolm and Martin because this was about black self-determination. The demands that were out there were already out there, all we had to do was keep it going.
All right? We wanted our own department. We wanted a chairperson who could hire and fire, we wanted black administrators, we wanted more black students, more TYP students, we wanted to build a black community here and we wanted to be able to be able to be lasting. We wanted the program not to be a program, we wanted to be a department. We wanted the department to be part of the University so we could have a day like this. I honest to God, never thought I would really see it, and I am so glad to be here.
I wanted to say that, in my opinion, Brandeis take over was a very, very successful. We had the help of a lot of experienced people, we had the help of our community, the Roxbury community, they came out. We had students come out. Candy's family, they had a business. Bob [inaudible] fed us. You might not remember Bob [inaudible], or Bob the Chef's Soul Food restaurant. So, the first day of the building take over, we had ribs, we had fried chicken, we had collard greens, we had all kinds of...but we had a lot of support and that was very helpful getting through that experience, because we had guidance.
We had Helen Stewart, guidance. Okay? Randy Bailey, he kept...look, we were in the building and sometimes we were at each other's throat. I remember one time, I don't know, I didn't mean to get tangential, but...I remember one time, if it wasn't for Randy Bailey, things might have gone haywire because at this point, we were at each other's throats. Okay? He came in, he was into religion, or something. He was able to handle us and he did. Okay?
Chad: We'll get to Randy in a minute, for sure.
Vere Plummer: I also want to say that the whole thing would never have happened, never really been pulled off successfully because Roy DeBerry, he handled and was able to keep all the factions together. See, this was a collective effort, all right? It was a unilateral decision, but staying in that building was a collective effort. I also want to say something else. We didn't have any problems recruiting anybody. Nobody was fighting, everybody was volunteering and ready to go and doing what they were supposed to do.
The support from the broader community I thought, was really pivotal because a lot of times in our negotiations, they were able to advise us which was a whole 'nother stage after the takeover.
Chad: Actually, that's a...thank you, so much, Vere, for that. But that's actually a great transition to Patricia Van, and you were involved in the negotiations. You were one of the key people who was tasked, speaking to these different roles and responsibilities, within Ford Hall, for communicating with the president, with President Abrams. I wonder what that experience was like, and your impressions of the president? I read some interesting things about him. But I'm interested in your perspective.
Patricia Van Story: I'm still trying to figure out how I got there. I remember...my main focus when I came to Brandeis, and everybody who knows me, knows I wanted to be a doctor. I was a Russian Language major and a pre-med minor. Crazy, right? I know. In the midst of trying to do that, it was my freshman year. One of the African American students said, "You need to go to Ford Hall," and they gave me a brief of what was going on, and I went. It was a come to Jesus meeting for me.
At some point in time, in your life, you have to stand for something. You have to believe in something and it may not go along with your plans that you have that day, or later in life, but you have to look at it, you have to step out of yourself and look at it. That's how I made my decision to support Ford Hall. I don't know how my name ended up on the list of the group of students that was supposed to negotiate. I'm basically, I think, a shy person. I only speak when I think it's meaningful but my name ended up on that list and that name came back to haunt me.
I think, when it was over and spring break came around, I was at my parents' home, and the phone rang. I answered the phone and the gentleman said, "This is ..." I think he said Officer Lafontaine, "... of the Boston bureau of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. May I speak to Patricia Van Story?" I said, "Speaking." "I'd like to ask you some questions." I said, "Is this mandatory?" He said, "No." I said, "Have a good day."
Chad: Mic drop. So, Randy you were also one of the key spokespersons. Can you say something about how did the pressure that you felt being in that position, being looked at as one of the key leaders, especially in confronting some of the outside agendas, with the outside pressures that were quite powerful, such as the Black Panther Party. Right? Trying to get in the building. When you realized, you know, "We gotta figure out a way to bring this to an end."
Randy Bailey: I want to correct a couple of things that have been said. When King got assassinated, we then came up with the demands and folk were acting out and I felt really bad, because Roy and I were roommates, so we didn't have anybody white to go up against and all that. So we kept trying to figure out what we were gonna do. But we actually did come up with the demands and were working along with President Sachar.
That was going, until President Abrams came. As Roy has said, President Abrams was a different breed. I...I guess I have to give some...back when I grew up in Malden and during the Civil Rights era, I graduated from a high school where there were seven blacks out of 714 in that class. But I was involved in getting a NAACP youth group working in the area and that was during the days of Louise Day Hicks and de facto segregation in education and school boycotts. We were organizing the black students from Malden to go to Boston for the Freedom Schools that, with the March on Washington, Louis Sullivan, who was teaching at BU at that time, and knew some of the Black residents at the hospital where my mother worked, brought me to the March on Washington.
My father was working with the Urban League, but would never...he wouldn't sign a non-violence statement, so they would never send him out into the field. When I came to Brandeis, I was Jewish, I had gone through Hebrew school, Hebrew high school, two years of Hebrew college. I did not want to come to Brandeis. I wanted to go to Columbia. I didn't get into Columbia, I ended up here. I found out in therapy later that the good thing was that the clash that was going on inside of me, in terms of Black and Jewish, was played out outside of me and so I could see that. I didn't realize that was happening, at the time.
But Morris Abram, his first act at our...seeing the demands that we were talking with Dr. Sachar about, accused us of black antisemitism and then, during his inauguration he brought Coretta Scott-King as a speaker and she was the only black person brought to the campus during my four years here, who refused to have dinner with the black students. She gave a lecture on black antisemitism and so, now when all of this locking up the building and all this stuff was going on...I don't know what it's like now, when I was here, first semester ended in the end of January.
We had just come back, I had to turn in a paper. Folk were talking about should we take the book store, or...I went to turn in my paper. I came back, and we were locked in the building. I said, "I gotta be with my peeps. Okay." Then Roy told me that I was gonna be spokesperson because in order for me, if I was spokesperson, Abrams could never play the black antisemitism card. I never understood how, during affirmative action debates, people want to say, "I want to be chosen for this." I had a skill that was useful for the group and also I had some negotiating skills, and all.
So I was willing to play that role. The experience became a defining point for me in that Abram came in one night and said, "Is this press release true?" I said, "What'd it say?" He said, "You will not leave the building unless your demands are met?" I said, "We've always said that." He said, "Well, as of six o'clock tonight, all of you have been expelled and at eight o'clock, the police are coming."
Folk got into groups, 'cause there were...and we had had folk from all different colleges and universities marching around outside and we had white Brandeis students and that and all. I sat there, and I said, "I guess I'm going to graduate from UMass. 'Cause I'm not going back and I'm not coming out." Now, that existential point for me, played out for the next 50 years and presidents of every university I've taught at have been pissed about that, 'cause I've always said, you know, the group has made a decision, we had to do this.
But the thing that concerned me so much, was that when we first got here, there were ten black students every year. Five males, five females and that included the Africans. There were some difficulties as to how the community didn't always get together on certain issues. What I was excited about, was that at this point, folk were coming together. For me, what happened here inspired people in so many other schools to take similar action that when Harry Edwards book came out and the picture of Reggie and Lloyd and myself were there, I said, "Hey, this was really something." To see, I know, having taught in Atlanta for almost 40 years, when students at Morehouse closed down the school and closed the trustees in, another group of Morehouse students tried to get the trustees out.
We didn't have that here. The folk that didn't agree with us stayed in another corner and when we came out, the fact that they didn't agree with us was cool, because I mean, we didn't create those divisions and that helped me to see that in struggle there are various elements of the community and when the struggle is over and continues, you still have to be in a relationship with them. I think all of us learned various ideas out of what happened to us here. That saddens me, that I could not have a black professor, while I was here. Only Casey Jones and Miss Perkins in the library, were the only black faculty. That bothered me.
This place that called itself so liberal, was not as liberal as it should be and then, when...I mean, the first person that we interviewed was Paulie Murray, and she told us she wasn't black, she was tawny. It was like, what...and helped us understand the nature of the struggle that was gonna have to continue on. The question I keep wondering is, has the university really learned it's lessons, and could they come forward and say this is how helpful this was, to us? This is what it taught us about ourselves. This is what we realized. We thought we were into something, and weren't. I'm not sure the university has put themselves on the stage to actually do their confession of what happened or, whether the university is prepared to look at how much money it got because of what it was that we did, and where that money went.
Whether this university has seriously looked at what has happened to black faculty who have been hired here. What has been the result of their contributions? I am thankful for what the graduate students did, who were in the [inaudible] school. I'm thankful for how people who were here, the black graduate students who went on to administrative positions function differently in those positions, but I'm still not sure that Brandeis, besides putting on these two days, has really come to the mourner's bench and said, "This is what we've learned that we have to do differently." Not just for black students, but for Asians, I mean ...
You see, the other thing that was going on, when we were here, was that was the height of the drug stuff. Brandeis was a major...Josh Marstell came to my room, one day to get a bag, but it was the wrong person. I'd be like..."there are all types of stuff going on here!"
Chad: Careful, now. All right.
Randy Bailey: I mean, like, what we planned...and the assumption was, when someone said go see Randy, well, this was the black Randy and the ... those racist assumptions that you could just come to Randy Bailey's room and get stuff, because he was black. I don't know where the university itself is, in its own introspection on where it wants to go around race, class, gender, sexuality, nationality and those intersections. I hope this is their time to do that.
Chad: Yeah. So we are unfortunately close to run out of time, but what I would like to do is, I know we have other individuals, your friends, your home girls who were also in Ford Hall. If any of you would like to briefly say something about your experience and what Ford Hall meant to you, I'd like to give you that opportunity.
Cathy: I do.
Chad: Okay. So we have some microphones in the aisles, if ... maybe someone could pass that microphone down?
Cathy: Hello? I just wanted to say, Vere, Vere Plummer, over here. There. I'm Cathy Red-Taylor, I'm Eddie Red's sister. I just want to say, I want to talk about how amazingly you guys were together, because they were the ones who first thought of the whole take over, when they were talking about students who felt that they weren't treated right and that the Universities weren't sort of doing what they promised. Back in the day, my brother...my mother heard about what was happening on television, that was way before obviously, texts and cell phones and that kind of thing.
I don't know how long you guys overtook the school, or took over the school, but my brother finally called my mother and my mother said, "Eddie, I want you to get out of that building. Right now." She was afraid he was gonna lose his scholarship and he mentioned you, Vere, Djanga, Harriet, all of you all, Ricardo...and he said, "Mom, we're prepared to die here." So whatever they're telling you on the stage, that is exactly what they did and we could only sit down in prayer. My father and mother didn't have the wherewithal to go up there in their car and get him. I don't think he would have come anyway, but that was the beginning of some real unity and I just wanted to tell you, somebody who really experienced that.
Keena: Yes, hi. My name is [Keena Kiehl], I'm the Class of '72, and while I was at Brandeis, I was on a list. There was a list of 90 students and one of my classmates felt very...threatened. Her parents were in the oil business in Venezuela and she came to me and said, "I'm on that list, too." I have two professors tell me that I was on this list and I went to the Dean of Students and I had him abolish the list. But meanwhile, her parents were killed in Venezuela.
So I would...my words to the University would also be, if you had any lists, please abolish them.
Lloyd Corbin: Good afternoon, folks. My name is Lloyd Corbin, Class of '72. I want to tell the people in this room that there are a lot of giants on that stage. Roy Deberry, Randy Bailey, Ricardo...they were all people that we met. I'm from New York City, we came up to do a poetry read and Lloyd Daniels and...what was his wife's name? Mary...Mary Daniels, Mary Brown. Wow. Anne Sapp was there. All these people are giants because they really recruited people, we went to Upward Bound together and we studied and then we came back to Brandeis in the fall for a cultural shock.
But I think all the people on this stage are really good and great people and they made it easier for us. How you doing, Hortense? Thanks a lot.
Chad: Thank you. Well, I would just like to say that there would absolutely not be a department, a department of African and African American Studies today, were it not for the courage, the sacrifice and the vision of the women and men who are on this stage, in our audience, as well as those who cannot be with us today. I personally thank you. We all thank you, we are forever in your debt. Thank you.
Anne Sapp: Hi.
Chad: And I am not going to have the last word, so please, come on.
Anne Sapp: I want to speak, without permission from the panels and the people who were in Ford Hall-
Anne Sapp: ... because I've heard everything-
Chad: And please introduce yourself.
Anne Sapp: I'm sorry, my name is Anne Sapp.
Anne Sapp: I was in the Class of '70, and I just wanted to say that I've heard it said several times today, and I want to thank you and the department, for pulling this together. Let me tell you why. Next week, I'll be 70 years old. It's dawned on me, you know, at this age, you start looking at your life and the things that you've done, and you start wondering, "Have I really had an impact anywhere?" Coming back here, for several different reasons, everybody has said, oh my God. This means a lot to us, too because to know that we took a risk 50 years ago, and it was a risk. I was willing to be kicked out of school. To know, that 50 years later, people appreciate it, it's been ... thank you.