As promised, business has not been as usual.
Over the last two days, Afrikan Black Student Alliance (A/BSA) has reclaimed Clark Kerr Hall for Afrikan, Black, Caribbean (ABC) students because their demands have not been met. They have repeatedly said they won’t leave until their demands are met.
“These demands are not a huge ask, but they are pivotal to the retention of our community. If the university fails us, there will be no business as usual,” A/BSA wrote to Chancellor George Blumenthal.
Though the chancellor responded to their demands in a letter, none were accepted. ABC students are routinely met with anti-Black slurs from their peers, subjected to walking past white supremacy flyers and told their culture doesn’t “fit” within the university.
In line with this, A/BSA’s reclamation was met with slammed doors, resent and contempt. Some told them they are wasting their education, and others said they are promoting segregation in their housing demands.
Despite ABC students making up less than 2 percent of the student body, hundreds of students, both identifying as ABC and as non-ABC, were in solidarity with A/BSA. And we also remain in solidarity with them.
The road to the reclamation of Kerr Hall began in Quarry Plaza, where over 250 gathered to march through Stevenson College, Science Hill and eventually Clark Kerr Hall. At Stevenson, the marchers stopped in front of the Rosa Parks African American Themed House (R.PAATH) and read Chancellor George Blumenthal’s response to their request to paint the building. R.PAATH is currently occupied by more white students than ABC students, despite being designated as a safe space for the ABC community.
“Each of the colleges were originally designed around an architectural theme with a shared look and feel which is different and distinct from the other colleges,” said the office of the chancellor in a written response to A/BSA’s demands. They also said that the building belonged to the college community as a whole and not to the group of students it was meant to represent, despite the fact that painting a building is not an architectural change.
Because of the divisive and manipulative nature that much of mainstream media operates under, A/BSA has asked that we only share the following statement:
“We are the Afrikan Black Student Alliance here at UC Santa Cruz. We have given the chancellor a list of demands that will uplift and affirm the humanity of Black folks at UCSC and ensure they have a space for years to come. The university decided that the safety and well being of Black students is not as important as filling residential halls for money. We have reclaimed Kerr hall, please refer to our reclamation statement, and Black students will not be leaving the space until our demands are met.”
In Clark Kerr Hall
Since the reclamation began, the media has shoved cameras into windows, made inappropriate remarks about the students and attempted to tear down door barricades. In light of this, since A/BSA is rightfully concerned about the mainstream media twisting and manipulating what they say, we will describe what we saw.
The protesters spread across Kerr Hall’s four floors, receiving glares and anger from some of the faculty and staff. The protestors told them to either “please leave” or “get the fuck out.” Chancellor George Blumenthal did not acknowledge the protesters or make any comment as he left, surrounded by other administrative members.
Kerr Hall does not have air conditioning, and by 3 p.m. Tuesday, temperatures had climbed to over 90 degrees. As a crowd of over 200 sweaty bodies gathered in support of A/BSA, students clothed in facemasks and black clothing passed in and out of rooms and down halls. Some were guarding the door and others were studying for midterms, but the majority were just listening.
“We are reclaiming space because the chancellors of this university should not have space to work in while we do not have space to work, live and be in,” said protest organizers to the crowd. “We are reclaiming space because the university refuses to provide space for us. We’re taking what belongs to us.”
The windows were covered with red and black paper reading “50 years of Bullshit” or “No Justice No Peace.” Images of Rosa Parks and photos of slave labor replaced the screen once listing campus announcements. In the lobby, students were feeding each other, dancing and building a community. No one was fighting. Not a single person was defacing property or bearing ill will. There was poetry on the walls, thoughts were shared, students were listening and students were heard — for the first time for many.
“We are migrants, immigrants, refugees and American-born. We are the descendants of forcefully enslaved Afrikan people in ‘The Americas,’ as well as the first, second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth generation immigrant and migrant children. We are capitalists, anti-capitalists and Anarchists,” protest organizers said in their reclamation statement. “We are everything because Blackness is everything.”
The last time Kerr Hall was taken by students was in 2009, when students occupied for over three days protesting tuition hikes. Since entering the building, the protesters have received little contact from the administration. They were told the police would not arrest anyone on the first night of their reclamation. The interim Executive Vice Chancellor Herbie Lee came to speak to the organizers about 24 hours after the space was reclaimed, but no negotiations took place.
Since reclaiming the space, A/BSA has refined their demands to only four, postponing one related to demanding an off-campus house for historically disadvantaged low-income students and one regarding a permanent advisor who has personal and professional experience handling ABC student issues. Blumenthal is expected to meet with the protesters at 4 p.m. on May 4. As of press time, the reclamation is ongoing.
“We invite all Afrikan, Black, and Caribbean (ABC) students to come (and to come back) into the space to build and rebuild across all the differences we have among us,” protest organizers said in their reclamation statement. “In so many ways we’re all we have here, and the chancellor’s response to the demands we put forward should be a clear indication of this very real fact.”
The UCSC Chancellors Office did not issue a statement. City on a Hill Press will continue to update this story as it develops. To help A/BSA purchase food and supplies as they reclaim Kerr Hall, donate to @BlackAtCruz on Venmo.