The Oberlin Review

Flat gravestones are sinking into the ground in Section S of Westwood Cemetery.

Let Us Lift Our Memorials Above Ground

September 11, 2020

On September 8, I delivered a second statement to the Oberlin City Council regarding a troubling situation at Westwood cemetery. I tried in May, during a previous City Council meeting, to politely broach the subject but was not taken seriously. The following recreates the essence of my recent statement: I am calling in again out of frustration and sadness regarding Section S of Westwood cemetery. Not only are the flat-only gravestones sinking into the swampy Oberlin earth, but they are also e...

Action Steps for the Conservatory to Create a Better Community

September 4, 2020

The only way to combat the ever-growing tide of racism and racist policies in this country and world is to broaden our understanding of their insidious nature. To that end, it is also important to construct systems based on a clear understanding of anti-racism. Anything short of a radical dedication to these transformative policies is tantamount to kicking the can down the road for another generation to deal with. We must be thorough, compassionate, and patient in our examination. We must also be unflinchingly clear about our dedication to cultivating not only allies, but accomplices that will stand with us in solidarity as we root out the rot produced by centuries of bigoted and biased policies and attitudes. To that...

What is a Black American Music Department?

Daniel Spearman, OC ’16

September 4, 2020

Editor’s Note: This piece is referenced in the letter-to-the-editor “Action Steps for the Conservatory to Create a Better Community.” Below are some thoughts I’ve had about Black music and its place within the spaces of higher learning. Black musicians (and people) have historically been excluded from being a full part of society in the United States. This has resulted in a situation where there are two (if not more) divergent forms of classical and folk music within the North American continent. As such, it is necessary, in my humble opinion, to create space and devote resources to the study and upliftment of marginalized — specifically Black — voices within the space of conservatories. For too lon...

Obies, Please Vote For Biden-Harris 2020

Simon Idelson, OC ’20

August 25, 2020

I’m sure that, despite differing Democratic primary allegiances, many Obies understand the gravity of this country’s current political situation and are planning to vote for former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris this coming presidential election. To those Obies who are less than enthusiastic about the presidential ticket, please indulge me for five minutes. In addition to the fact that many Obies can vote in Ohio, one of the most important swing states, there are three fundamental points that should motivate you to go to the polls and vote for Biden-Harris.  First and foremost, a second Trump term will gravely affect the vulnerable communities in the United States. Many Obies, myself includ...

65 Foundational Works in the Field of Africana Studies

Department of Africana Studies

June 14, 2020

Editor’s Note: This list of resources was originally attached to ABUSUA’s Letter to the Administration and Board of Trustees.  This following selection of works (written, visual and aural texts) have been combined by the faculty and affiliate faculty of Oberlin College’s Department of Africana Studies, to provide for its major, minor and interested students a list of what members of the department see as foundational works in the field of Africana Studies. The interdisciplinary nature of the field and the multi-disciplinary range of the contributors to this collection provides a broad, deep, and complex interpretation of works fundamental to the description, study, and creative expression of Africana peoples (continental...

ABUSUA Demands Institutional Reform from Administrators, Board of Trustees


June 14, 2020

To Oberlin College and Conservatory administration and Board of Trustees ABUSUA, Oberlin’s Black Student Union, would like to express our anger and dissatisfaction with Oberlin's administration. The recent killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and countless others have made the world take a hard look at all of the continually ignored racist practices and institutions embedded in our society. Their painful deaths serve as a reminder of the systematic oppression and racism that continue to affect Black people in America. Oberlin has a legacy of activism and supporting the advancement of Black people. We would like to see these values reflected in Oberlin's response to the current Bla...

UAW Leadership Calls Outsourcing Plan Inconsistent with College’s Racial Justice Values

UAW 2192 Leadership Team

June 12, 2020

To Oberlin College, Historically, the United Auto Workers union has played an important role in pioneering civil rights and freedoms in and out of the workplace. The UAW has walked hand in hand with civil rights leaders and the civil rights movement — from helping fund the Montgomery bus boycott and the march from Selma to Montgomery to providing an office at the Solidarity House for Martin Luther King Jr., where he penned his “I Have a Dream” speech. The UAW was also there to post bail for Dr. King’s release in 1963 from a Birmingham City Jail. That is what the UAW stands for.  In a recent email from President Ambar where she spoke from the heart about the black community, she mentioned that “Oberlin ...

Conservatory Must Include More Work by Black Composers

J Holzen, OC ’20

June 10, 2020

Editor’s Note: This letter has been signed online by 356 members of the Oberlin community at the time of publication. To the deans and conductors at Oberlin Conservatory: Oberlin College, like many of our peer institutions, has recently issued statements on social media expressing its support for the Black community during this time. However, we request that you put a plan in place as an institution to hold the Conservatory accountable for these issues outside of its social media presence. Oberlin College prides itself on its liberalism and its progressivism, from being the first school to accept women and one of the first schools to accept African-Americans to its reputation for student activism. This in...

Incoming Students Voice Support for UAW

May 28, 2020

Dear President Ambar,  Oberlin Admissions chose an incoming class that cares about the world, and many of us committed out of a belief that the College felt the same way. Now, we’re not so sure. When we learned of Oberlin’s plans to lay off 108 unionized workers and replace them with an outside contractor, we were forced to question whether or not Oberlin is truly the school that was marketed to us. Oberlin claims the motto, “Learning and Labor,” but does it practice it? We have yet to be on campus, but we know that both learning and labor are equal parts of the ecosystem that makes Oberlin such a special community. We know that one cannot exist without the other.  “Think one person can change the world...

Ohio Federation of Teachers Responds to UAW Controversy

Melissa Cropper, President, Ohio Federation of Teachers

April 24, 2020

To President Carmen Twillie Ambar, We, the more than 20,000 members of the Ohio Federation of Teachers, stand in solidarity with our United Auto Workers brothers and sisters targeted for outsourcing at Oberlin College. Outsourcing more than 100 union workers in order to avoid paying health benefits is morally bankrupt in the best of times, but to do so during a global pandemic is absolutely unconscionable. Furthermore, union busting is especially egregious for an institution that markets its progressive history to draw students. As teachers, we know that the working conditions of the employees who make our schools run, whether that be custodians or food service providers, directly influence the ability of stud...

Black Student Leadership Endorses Universal Pass

Mowa Badmos, College second-year, co-chair, ASA, Blessing Bwititi, College third-year, co-chair, ASA, Benjamin Collado, College third-year, co-chair and treasurer, SOCA, Timothy Grant, College second-year, co-chair, ABUSUA, Seyquan Mack, double-degree fourth-year, chair, OCBMG, Deverrick McAllister Jr., College second-year, co-chair and student liaison, SOCA, Lauriel Powell, College second-year, co-chair, BSG, and Mike Sandifer, College third-year, co-chair, The Brotherhood

April 4, 2020

Dear Oberlin College and Conservatory Community Members,  These are difficult and scary times that we are living in. Since being evicted from campus amidst a global pandemic, none amongst us have been able to avoid the fallout of COVID-19. However, this crisis will especially impact Black students’ ability to succeed. As many of us will be deprived of the resources necessary for our success, the move to online classes will create greater disparity on an already uneven playing field. In addition, Black students are more likely to have been thrust into unsafe environments where we may face food and financial insecurity, as well as other circumstances that are beyond our control. All of these variables increase the likel...

OCOPE Resolution in Support of UAW

Julie Weir, President, OCOPE Reference & Academic Commons Assistant

March 13, 2020

We, the members of Oberlin College Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 502, stand in solidarity with our United Automobile Workers union brothers and sisters, and we wholeheartedly support them in their fight to preserve their jobs and the dignity of labor at Oberlin College. We strongly condemn the administration’s plan to lay off unionized custodial and food service workers and to replace them with outsourced labor, and we oppose any union-busting techniques. Furthermore, we are convinced that Oberlin’s future is best secured when the College treats all of its workers like the valuable members of the campus community they are — rather than as expendable units of labor.  ...

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