Letter from the Department of Black Studies
Issue   |   Fri, 11/13/2015 - 15:32

Dear students,

We in the Department of Black Studies were moved by Thursday’s walkout and sit-in at Frost Library. Initially an expression of solidarity with students at Missouri, Yale, and elsewhere, it quickly turned into an intense, fiery event, full of compelling stories of struggle, friendship, insistence on belonging, and an overwhelming demand that the institution change. Spoken directly to the Dean of Faculty, those words bore truths that are as old as the presence of students of color on campus and as new as the demands of student life today.

First, we want to recognize, applaud, and express the deepest respect for the courage it took to say all of that. To stand still with a strong voice and speak truthful things — that is no easy thing. We are humbled by your will to say your piece. Your demands to be heard and seen are righteous. Do not forget that. Second, we heard those demands as a department and we are reminded of how central they are to our mission. Your words remind us of our purpose here as teachers, fellow campus citizens, as a department, and comrades in the struggle for racial justice here at the college and in the wider world from which we all come.

Racial justice on this campus, and this is true of the same in our wider world, requires full-court press. That is, our demands and conscience must press on everything and everyone who touches lives — faculty, staff, administrators, fellow students. That is exhausting work. We hope you all draw strength from those numbers in Frost. And as your work moves through its next phases, please know that we in Black Studies have your back.

In solidarity,

John Drabinski, Chair
Rowland Abiodun
Rhonda Cobham-Sander
Jeff Ferguson
Mitzi Goheen
Alec Hickmott
Mary Hicks
Karla Keyes
Solsi del Moral
Hilary Moss
Khary Polk

Concerned alum, '06 (not verified) says:
Sat, 11/14/2015 - 12:31

Does the Department of Black Studies support all of the 11 demands made by Amherst Uprising? Or does it not support all 11 of the demands? In other words, does it support those demands only in spirit, only conditionally, and only partially? If only in spirit, only conditionally, and only partially, wouldn't it be better to say that you don't actually have the protestors' backs - or, same thing, that you have the protestors' backs only in spirit, only conditionally, and only partially? Also, does the Department of Black Studies support the three young women who have declared an apparently open-ended hunger strike? Does the Department of Black Studies support this hunger strike only in spirit, only conditionally, and only partially? Or does it support the actual hunger strike? Does the Department think that it is a good idea for these three students to go on an indefinite hunger strike?

Matt Randolph '16 (not verified) says:
Sun, 11/15/2015 - 14:40

Hi, I won't speak on behalf of the Department of Black Studies since you have specifically asked questions to them in your comment.

However, I wanted to respectfully direct you and others who read your comment to the student-run publication Amherst Soul, in order to be updated on the development of the hunger strike movement. At www.amherstsoul.com, one can find an apology letter submitted to Amherst Soul from those who began the hunger strike. They have ended their hunger strike movement as of 11/14/2015: "We realize now that prolonging the hunger strike in an attempt to reach this goal would continue to disrespect the efforts of our fellow students of color and allies at Amherst College. As such, we are ending the hunger strike effective immediately in order to move forward in the fight for racial justice at Amherst College and in the world."

Thank you.