In 1968, the Black Student Union (BSU) at Stanford interrupted an assembly to read a list of demands calling for the establishment of Black studies at Stanford. The Black Graduate Student Association (BGSA) reflected on this historic event, “Taking the mic,” at its second teach-in: Continuing the Fight for AAAS Departmentalization.
According to a BGSA email, the teach-in series is “designed to work in conjunction with additional efforts to mobilize individuals to support and call for AAAS departmentalization now.”
Tuesday’s teach-in emphasized the importance of departmentalizing the African and African American Studies (AAAS) program, particularly because departments have more autonomy and ability to foster intellectual community.
The BGSA, BSU and other groups have formed a coalition to push for the departmentalization of AAAS at Stanford. Students and faculty from several departments have voiced their support in a series of op-eds in The Daily named “Battle for Black Studies.”
BGSA president and sociology Ph.D. student Kimya Loder said that there is an inherent “lack of understanding of what Black studies is” at the teach-in.
Third-year modern thought and literature Ph.D. student Luke Williams, who led the event, said that Black studies is about transforming the way that people are able to think and exist in the world.
Black Community Services Center director Rosalind Conerly, whose research focuses on community centers at predominately white institutions spoke on the history of the fight for Black studies and Black cultural centers.
Black students activists have demanded a home for Black studies at Stanford for decades. The notable “Taking the mic” event occurred during Provost Richard Lyman’s 1968 convocation to discuss “Stanford’s Response to White Racism” which took place four days after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Fourth-year anthropology Ph.D. student Jameelah Morris said that the teach-ins serve to enable a sense of collective responsibility to hold the University accountable for its failure to care for Black students and Black studies.
BGSA plans to host several events for the remainder of the quarter. The group will host a Black Community Town Hall next Thursday. It encouraged attendees to have their departments write letters of support and to use the #blackstudiesmatter and #StanfordTeachIn hashtags on social media.