Alumni of Color Call for Action, Support

It was early morning Friday, April 13 when the article in The Oberlin Review, “Afrikana Community Responds to Bigotry,” began to spread like wildfire on the Internet within Oberlin’s alumni of color community. Many of us were shocked beyond measure to learn what Afrikana students are facing every day now on Oberlin’s campus. Many of us cried. Oberlin’s Afrikana students are clearly “sick and tired,” as they stated in their powerful letter, of the blatant disrespect at Oberlin of Afrikana students, their culture and their history. The students’ faith in the institution of higher learning that they attend is being tested like never before. And we alumni of color and allies are gravely concerned — about the physical, mental and emotional well-being of our young brothers and sisters.

Oberlin College and Conservatory alumni of color and allies from all across the country want to first take this opportunity to commend Oberlin’s Afrikana students for continuing to maintain such high standards of commitment to the cause of social justice. These students are brilliant, courageous and obviously born leaders, and we want to thank them for being who they are. We alumni of color and allies pledge to do whatever these students need us to do to ensure that they are able to experience a rich and fulfilling college experience — and one that does not destroy them in the process.

We also want to take this opportunity to call for action from the Oberlin College administration. We are looking for — no, expecting — the administration to respond intentionally and forcefully to the intolerable racist acts that we read about in the students’ letter and in the April 20 Review article, “Student Community Opens Campus Discussion on Race, Discrimination.” Of paramount concern to us is the vandalism at Afrikan Heritage House (and Third World House):

“Afrikan Heritage House, a safe space for people of African descent and for the preservation of African and African-American culture, has been the victim of a number of different instances of vandalism in the past month. Penises were drawn on several paintings of important figures in the Black community, and a wooden plaque representing one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa, Imani, signifying faith, which stood in Lord Lounge was removed and defaced.

“Ralph Jones, faculty-in-residence at Afrikan Heritage House, said this is not the first incident of vandalism at Afrikan Heritage House he’s seen in his time here. In November of 2010, a student stole numerous paintings off the walls of the residence hall.”

The vandalism that has taken place for two years now at these two dorms/cultural centers is an open manifestation of disrespect to people of color everywhere. These acts of vandalism painfully demonstrate to us just how unsafe our young brothers and sisters are on Oberlin’s campus right now. Their actual homes away from home have been violated, and they have no refuge anywhere on campus. For so many of us alumni, Afrikan Heritage House and Third World House were our safe havens, our leadership-developing grounds, our place to learn from the elders and our space to laugh, sing, dance and breathe.

We stand in agreement with Oberlin’s Afrikana students who “refuse to believe that Oberlin College is a space where such behavior is tolerated, accepted and encouraged.” As heavy as our hearts are right now, we are trying to not lose faith in the school’s commitment to social justice. It was indeed this commitment to social justice and Oberlin’s important history in the anti-slavery movement that inspired so many of us to apply to and then attend Oberlin College.

On the Lorain Public Library website, it is noted that “the local Oberlin newspaper, The Oberlin Evangelist, wrote on January 30, 1856: ‘Oberlin is perhaps the most important station along the whole line of the Underground Railway. It has rendered the most important services to Freedom. It is second only to Canada as an asylum for the hunted fugitive.’” All one has to do is look at the evening news to see that Black and Brown people today are yet again “hunted fugitives.” We beg you, Oberlin College administration, to be that safe haven for our young people today.

–Oberlin Alumni of Color and Allies Carolyn (Cunningham) Ash, 1991; Melinda (Pollard) Allen, 1988; Kim Anderson, 1981; Courtney-Savali L. Andrews, 2003; Howard Arnette, 1981; Warren Diamond Austin, 1977; Ihsan (James) Bagby, 1970; Herman Beavers, 1981; Sandra (Roberts) Bell, 1981; Vince Bell, 1979; Chantal Bonitto, 2004; Elizabeth (Hopper) Borge, 1992; Kristal Boyd, 2010; Joyce (Proctor) Brentley-Baker, 1970; Danielle Jean Brooks, 2007; Chris Broussard, 1990; Crystal (Collins) Broussard, 1988; Tracy Brower, 1985; Charles Cannon, 1994; Ryan D. Canty, 1998; Stacey J. Carter, 1999; Richard Ceasor, 1989; Esther Chambers, 1979; Adisa Chaney, 2001; Nakisha (Heard) Chaney, 1998; Magalee Cirpili, 2011; Andrea Clark-Horton, 1998; Daune (Ross) Clark, 1978-1980; Jamila Clarke, 2006; Jason Cunningham, 1999; Hodari Davis, 1987-1989; Menna Demessie, 2002; Carla Dozier, 1987; Ernestine (Williams) Duncan, 1983; Andrea (Phillips) Eaton, 1990; Lillie (Johnson) Edwards, 1975; Malik Edwards, 1991; Gibran el-Sulayman, 1993; Melanie Eversley, 1983; Gregory C. Ewing, 1976; Alan Farrell, 1992; Curtis Ferguson, II, 2005; Shoshana First, 2005; Lillian (Lynk) Fleming, 1967; Phoenix Forbes, 2008; Flora Francis, 1982; Connie Fullilove-Cole, 1972; Anne Garrett Mills, 1988; Debra Gipson, 1989; Angela (Davis) Gittens, 1994; Thad M. Gittens, 1995; Timothy A. Gondre-Lewis, 1989; Greg Gray, 1982; Jonathan T. Green, 1974; Jonathan R. Green, 2005; Leila Green, 2003; Darrick Hamilton, 1993; Giordano Hardy-Gerena, 2011; Andrea Hargrave, 1997 (Co-Chair of the Oberlin Alumni Association of African Ancestry and Executive Board member of the Oberlin Alumni Association); Donna Akiba (Sullivan) Harper, 1975; Andrea P. Hart, 1986; Risa Hernandez, 1986; Anthony D. Houston, 1987; Cheryl (Willis) Hudson , 1970; Jackie (Bradley) Hughes, 1976 (President of the Oberlin Alumni Association); Rebecca (Matlock) Hutchinson, 1986; Leah Hunter, 1992; Monica Lee (McCormick) Jackson, 1984; Alicia M. Jacobs, 1977; Nicole James, 1999; Pamela L. Jennings, 1986; Alisha Lola Jones, 2003; Lisa Jones, 1984; Jessica Judson, 2010; Marissa Kennedy, 2010; Calvin D. Kwame Keuchler, 1989; Lisa (Mitchell) Kinsey, 1993; Diepiriye Kuku-Siemons, 1997; Joe Lane, 1989-1990; Megan Latimore, 2011; Jeff LaVar, 1987; Little Wing Lee, 1995; Shawn LeSure, 2011; Jimmy L. Logan, 1984; Tiffanie Luckett, 1999 (1999 Class President and Co-Chair of the Oberlin Alumni Association of African Ancestry); Michael J. Lythcott, 1970; Elizabeth S. Maurice, 1991; Todd McFadden, 1988; Connie McKoy, 1978; Michael Mohamed, 2011; Athena Moore, 1993; Kyla Moore, 2011; Patsy (Jennings) Morton, 1973; Allen James Morton, Jr., 1974; Pia Murray, 2007; Shaun Neal, 1991; Gaye Newton, 1984; Jibrail Nor, 2000; Nana Ataa Ofosu-Benefo, 1989; Corey Olds, 1991; dt ogilvie, 1970; Toju Omatete, 1990 (1990 Co-Class President); Akwasi Osei, 1980 (Afrikan Heritage House Director/Lecturer in Afrikan American Studies 1987-1989); Ruth (Turner) Perot, 1960; Carmella (Barrett) Perry, 1979; Lamorris Perry, 1979; Ntombi A. Peters, 1997; Phebe Philips, 2010; Cedric Powell, 1984; Dionne Powell, 1980; Patricia (Hummons) Powell, 1976; Joe Powell, 1967; Limmie Pulliam, 1998; James Richardson, 1987; Angela Riley, 1985; Joanne Robertson, 1991; (Lorecia) Kaifa Roland, 1991; Yvonne (Orendorf) Ross, 1951-1952; Tim Russell, 1992; Thomas Shannon, 2009; Joseph Smith, 1986; Earl Singleton, 1971; Jabari Spruill, 2001; Darrick Strange, 1973; Danielle Taylor, 2010; Fern Taylor, 1987; Kamali Teabout, 2010; Lisa (Fields) Thompson, 1993; Robin Joyce Tillotson, 1981; Sherrie Tolliver, 1974; Amber Walker, 2011; Geno Walker, 2001; Tiana Wallace, 2006; Melody R. Waller, 1998; Rashida (Phillips) Walker, 1999; Alia Walston, 2009; Calvin Walton, 1986; Daniel Wasse, 1987; Lisa Whitfield, 1990 (1990 Class Agent); Dianna White, 1985; Laila Williams, 2009; Nolan Williams, 1990; Pamela L. Williams, 1991; Perdexter Williams, 1983; James Willie, 1989; Evelyn L. Wilson, 1971; Shea Winsett, 2008; Ashley Woods, 2005