Clayborne Carson

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Clayborne Carson was a contributor to The Black Scholar.[1]

1989 Stanford Peace Movement reunion

On May 7, 1989, some 50 or 60 veterans of the Stanford anti-war movement wound their way into the basement of the Applied Electronics Laboratory building, site of their nine-day sit-in against secret military research a little more than twenty years ago. The AEL print shop, from which protesters produced nearly a million sheets of political literature, was gone, replaced by simple offices in the new age of laser printers and high speed copiers.

We gathered again outside the building to hear Paul Rupert tell how a fictional call to his mother in April, 1969 quelled university president Kenneth Pitzer's from-the-floor-microphone attempt to sidetrack the sit-in.

At the first afternoon panel, Clayborne Carson, David Harris, David Ransom, and Marjorie Cohn traced the development of the Stanford peace movement from the birth of SNCC in the south to the demonstrations of spring, 1969. David Ransom's talk, excerpted later in this booklet, described the multi-year strategy, tactics, and techniques that culminated in the AEL sit-in and the blockade of SRI's counterinsurgency labs in the Stanford Industrial Park.[2]

"25 Years"

Students and alumni presented “25 Years: Honoring Student Activism and the Legacy of the 1989 Takeover” October 14, an event to commemorate the student activism that led to the promotion of multicultural integration on campus.

This event celebrated the 1989 takeover, in which 55 students from ethnic groups around campus were arrested after confronting the University’s failure to address racial injustices by storming former Stanford president Donald Kennedy’s office.

“The main purpose of the takeover,” said Jessica Reed ’16, Black Student Union co-president and student performer, “was really trying to create institutional change to go along with the change that was occurring demographically in terms of the students on campus.”

Among other requests, student groups from the Asian American Community Center, Native American Cultural Center and other organizations, demanded that the University expand on current ethnic studies classes, add new ethnic studies programs, increase funding for cultural centers and hire more faculty of color.

The 25th-anniversary commemoration began with a welcome from Jan Barker Alexander, associate dean of student affairs, who addressed how the past can fuel the present.

Following her speech was the student production “Takeover ’89,” directed, written and produced by Ken Savage ’14. The play depicted the motivations behind the takeover, the timeline of events on May 19, 1989, and how current students can respond to these past events. The event followed with a historic perspective presented by Clayborne Carson, a history professor during the time of the takeover. Carson reflected on his thoughts towards the legacy of the takeover, in which he stated that “the [takeover] was one of the proudest moments of my life…we were inspired by the students.”

Lastly, students had a chance to interact with alumni who had participated in the ’89 takeover during the panel discussion titled “Panel: Alumni Reflections.” Alumni Richard Suh ’90, Cheryl Taylor ’90, Gina Hernandez-Clarke ’89 and William McCabe ’89 answered questions regarding their reflections on the takeover and advice for current students.

“We would have no way of anticipating that our actions 25 years ago would have any impact on students today,” Suh said. “It feels really fulfilling; you certainly feel a sense of satisfaction that what you did at one point in time made a big difference.”

“I can’t separate my personal tie to the takeover,” said Hye Jeong Yoon ’14, a student performer in “Take Over ’89.” “All Stanford students benefited, but being a CSRE [Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity] major, I know that I for one would not be the same person if I didn’t make relationships with professors who were hired directly because of this takeover. I am the direct beneficiary of this takeover.”

Among the alumni who attended was Louis Jackson ’91, who was singled out for more serious charges than other students for his actions.

“It’s the past reconnecting with the present. We notice that, yeah, stuff has changed, but there’s also so much more,” Priscilla Agbeo ’18 said.

In the panel discussion with alumni, moderator Alma Medina ’92 stated, “I was enough, I was enough to make a difference — and other people were also enough, so when you put that together, you can really make a difference.”

“This phrase really meant being critical of what you’re being taught and taking control of what you’re being taught and having a say of what you’re being taught,” said Suh.

“To me, self determination for our education means taking ownership of your history. We should be able to learn about it from our lens, not a westernized lens. There’s often a lot of miseducation because it’s in a westernized lens if it’s not in the perspectives that we necessarily would stand for,” Jade Verdeflor ’17 said.

This event was a joint venture between the various culture groups around campus. The participating groups were the Asian American Activities Center, El Centro Chicano y Latino, Black Community Services Center and the Native American Culture Center. This collaboration of cultural groups mirrors the spirit of unity that incited the takeover, in which many student groups came together to create one force.[3]

"Justice and Hope"

Steven Phillips wrote Justice and Hope: Past Reflections and Future Visions of the Stanford Black Student Union 1967-1989, in 1990.

Writing Justice and Hope has been a humbling and daunting exercise. Many, many people helped, and this is indeed a collective work. I am grateful to the many Black faculty and staff members who provided valuable advice, support and direction: James L. Gibbs, St. Clair Drake, Kennell Jackson, Clayborne Carson, Keith Archuleta, Michael Jackson, Michael Britt, Dandre Desandies, Hank Organ, and Rachel Bagby.
I also made extensive use of the Stanford Libraries. At the various stages of production, a whole host of peeple contributed. I hope I don't leave anybody out, but here goes. My thanks go out to the following people: Lisa Fitts, Audrey Jawando, Bacardi Jackson, and Drew Dixon helped give shape to Justice and Hope when it was still a vague and unformed idea. Toni Long demonstrated for me the true power of PageMaker. David Porter clarified important facts and provided historical information. Frederick Sparks helped with fundraising and monitoring the budget. Lyzettc Settle added critical comments and an extremely thorough and detailed revision of the text. Danzy Senna, Joy St. John, Stacey Leyton, Raoul Mowatt, Valerie Mih, Hillary Skillings, Judy Wu, Quynh Tran, and Cheryl Taylor meticulously proofread the final drafts. Elsa Tsutaoka gave advice on design, layout and cutting photos. MEChA loaned us its layout equipment The staff in the ASSU Business Office always cheerfully facilitated financial transactions and questions.[4]

Stanford South Africa panel

During her first year at Stanford, Amanda Kemp was struck by something then-President Donald Kennedy said during a speech to the freshman class: "Question authority."

That advice was among the things that inspired her to join with hundreds of other students in sit-ins outside of Kennedy's office in the spring of 1985, as part of a campaign to pressure the university to divest itself of stock in companies doing business with the apartheid regime in South Africa, Kemp said on Saturday afternoon. She appeared with Kennedy as part of a panel that discussed the legacy of the anti-apartheid movement on the Stanford campus and elsewhere.

The discussion was part of "Celebrating South African Freedom: A Symposium on the International Campaign to End Apartheid," organized by the Aurora Forum, January 2006. Along with Kemp, a founding member of the Stanford Students Out of South Africa and now a visiting professor of American studies at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Penn., other alumni panelists included lawyer Steven Phillips, a student activist and SOSA and Black Student Union leader at the time of the 1985 sit-ins, who now works as a political organizer, and Jory Steele, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California in San Francisco. After her graduation from Stanford in 1993, Steele traveled to South Africa on a Fulbright scholarship and later worked for political organizations there.

Also taking part in Saturday's panel was South African activist and lawyer Albie Sachs, a longtime member of the African National Congress who lost an arm and the sight in one eye in 1988 in a car bomb attack by South African agents. Sachs, appointed in 1994 to the South African Constitutional Court by Nelson Mandela, was the author of a case decided in December that declared a constitutional right to same-sex marriage in South Africa.

The symposium also included the premiere of a segment of the film series Have You Heard from Johannesburg?, produced by Connie Field of Clarity Films. The segment documented the growth of the anti-apartheid movement in the United States in Washington, D.C., and on campuses, including Stanford, against the backdrop of violence in South Africa. After a projector failed in Kresge Auditorium during the last minutes of the 90-minute film, Field spoke with the audience about making and funding the film series, which is still in production.

'A tiny acorn grew into a huge tree'The campus movement in support of the Free South Africa campaign was the largest student movement in Stanford's history, involving hundreds of students over a period of years, panelists said. The international anti-apartheid movement is notable for the fact that it mobilized people in every major country in the world to act, said Clayborne Carson, director of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute.

"I saw a tiny little acorn grow into a huge tree," said Sachs, who was arrested and imprisoned for his political activities in South Africa before going into exile in the 1960s. In exile, Sachs worked internationally to mobilize resistance to the South African government. In the early years, "the anti-apartheid movement was just another issue," he said. "But, eventually it became a clear moral question that caused all sorts of people to stand up and ask themselves, 'What does it mean to be a human being?'"

For Phillips, who after leaving Stanford served on the San Francisco Board of Education as the youngest person elected to office in that city, a visit to the Stanford campus by Bishop Desmond Tutu showed him the power of what he called "morality plus organization."

From Tutu, who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his role in the liberation struggle in South Africa, Phillips saw "the explosive power of making a stand on social justice," he said. "Rooting yourself in the struggle of disenfranchised people working for justice is a force unto itself."

Some panelists said the sense of the interrelationship of all humanity—encapsulated in the South African expression ubuntu—was among the chief lessons to be learned from the anti-apartheid struggle. From "Question authority" she's moved to "Question individuality," Kemp said. "What I think is important is interconnectedness." Kemp said that, as a student activist, she was supported and nurtured by the generation who engaged in the civil rights struggles in the 1960s and regaled her with stories of their transformative experiences. "They taught me to think critically and engage," she said.

After the symposium, junior Mark Liu asked Kemp for her advice in strengthening current student organizing efforts. First, she would see about getting Liu an invitation to dinner with herself and other panelists, Kemp said. "Don't get discouraged," Kemp added. "Nurture yourself. Bring in people who can sustain you."[5]

King connection

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