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Archives For November 30, 1999

Call for Racial and Social Justice at C of C

By Julia Eichelberger
Posted on 21 September 2020 | 1:56 pm — 

Call for Racial and Social Justice at the College of Charleston

CSSC Social Justice Working Group

September 2020

As members of CSSC, which studies slavery’s history and legacies, we recognize this summer’s recent instances of brutality as manifestations of our country’s long history of violence against Black, Brown, and Indigenous peoples. The histories of racism and white supremacy are clearly not past: we are still living them, and they are ever-present in our daily interactions and institutions. Because of this, the CSSC was established in 2018 to foster a deeper public understanding of slavery and its complex legacies, and to use that understanding to bring about racial reconciliation, healing, and repair. It is to this end that we demand reparations and social justice. 

We call upon the College to commit resources to promoting racial healing and repairing the systemic injustices created by slavery and racism on our campus and in our local community. Our policies, curriculum, and spending priorities must be intentionally and explicitly antiracist. 

In our new Strategic Plan, the College defines itself as a “transformative national university.” To transform our students, faculty/staff, and community, the College must prioritize all the “Initiatives for Implementation” in the Strategic Plan that address the inequities and injustices of systemic racism.  We also call upon the College to enable CSSC and other campus and community groups to play an active role in developing and implementing these initiatives and measuring the College’s progress.

We call upon upon the College to transform itself into a fully anti-racist and equitable campus by prioritizing the following: 

  1. Permanently fund the Center for the Study of Slavery to function as an educational resource and a thought-action leader. The College and the city of Charleston were built by enslaved bodies and souls. We must become conscious of our community’s true history. If the College sees the Center as a way of reckoning with the vestiges of slavery, as it was founded to do, then it is imperative for the Center to be adequately supported to carry out that mission of education, reconciliation, and repair.
  2. Require all College of Charleston students to study Charleston’s transnational history of slavery, colonialism, and race. Charleston’s history includes African, Caribbean, and European cultures and took shape in an indigenous America. Let’s be sure our students and community know this history, and its value to the present. We support the 2-course series proposed by the Ad Hoc Committee on the Creation of a Race, Equity, and Inclusion Requirement. To carry out this work, the College must provide increased funding for the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture and convert African American Studies from a program into a full department.
  3. Increase co-curricular opportunities for students to engage with the campus and community in pursuit of anti-racism and social and environmental justice. The College must increase substantive opportunities (internships, fellowships, etc) for students to engage in this work so that at least half of our students do so during their time at CofC.
  4. Bring the College’s Black student population up to at least 30% of the student body. The current population of Black students at this public university is only 8%. Meanwhile the African American population in the City of Charleston is 28%,  47% percent in North Charleston, and approximately 30% in the state of South Carolina.  The College of Charleston has an historical and moral duty to make the College representative of the entire Charleston community. We also must support students with a welcoming and inclusive campus environment and create much stronger connections with Black alumni. All this will demonstrate C of C’s 21st century commitment to Black lives and Black agency.
  5. Provide transformational financial support, in partnership with local and state government, in the form of student scholarships for Charleston residents of color in order to combat the underrepresentation of students of color on campus. The College, the city, and the state must make amends for the economic and social opportunities stolen away from people of African and indigenous descent. One example of the substantive support the College should provide is the McNair Scholars Program, which is designed to provide first generation and minority students with financial and academic support to prepare for graduate school. This program was originally launched at CofC in 2009-2010, but then was not successfully renewed.
  6. Transform the visual and memorial landscape of the campus by changing names and signage honoring slave owners, segregationists, and those who promoted racist policies, and by including visual recognitions of the contributions and achievements of African-descended people. As alumni and students have advocated, the College needs to create an inclusive and safe space for learning and educational exchange for the entire community. To support this, we also demand that the College commit to ongoing research on the history of its campus and publicize the full history of the structures and the people who built them. Students and faculty who do this research should receive institutional support and an appropriate forum for publishing their findings. Students, staff, and faculty should be free to publicly express their affiliation with organizations that uphold anti-racist values. The history and people we celebrate on campus should represent the anti-racist and anti-hate values we aspire to teach and live by.
  7. Require all College of Charleston employees to participate in substantive anti-racism training. These activities should shift the burden of unpacking and dismantling white privilege in the workplace away from our students, staff, and faculty of color (see Whiteness at Work webinar). Hourly and adjunct employees should be paid for their time spent undergoing such training.
  8. Prioritize hiring Black faculty and staff, so that these demographics reflect those of the state. It is important for all students to learn from faculty and staff from diverse cultural and racial backgrounds. A university in the modern world requires bringing unique ideas and experiences into contact and exchange.
  9. Elevate the status of the College’s primarily Black contracted staff in housekeeping, groundskeeping, maintenance, food services, security, and other essential campus services. College leadership can set the tone for the entire campus to recognize and empower these individuals. They perform labor that is fundamental to the College, and many have multi-generational ties to the campus. The College can include these employees in decision-making processes, publicly honor the work they do, and increase their participation in communal College life. The College should commit to improved wages and benefits, representation on staff committees, appropriate break spaces, and the free access to campus programming and events that other employees receive.
  10. Implement more socially-just policing practices. Identifying suspects based solely on race must end. Campus security and the local Charleston police force should release non-racialized reports and warnings to the College community.  The College’s Department of Public Safety should undergo an independent racial bias audit, similar to the one performed by CNA for the City of Charleston, and then commit to implementing its recommendations. Redirecting police funding to community outreach and community programming is essential to building trust between the university and its neighbors.

CSSC Social Justice Working Group: Jen Wright (chair), Lisa Covert, Matthew Cressler, Julia Eichelberger, Courtney Hicks, Blake Scott, Marjory Wentworth, Lisa Young.

CSSC Executive Board: Bernard Powers (director), Shannon Eaves, Julia Eichelberger, Grant Gilmore, Celeste Greene, Aaisha Haykal, Simon Lewis, Kameelah Martin.

Learn about two powerful African American women’s role in the SC suffrage movement in this Zoom lecture by Valinda Littlefield, Associate Professor of History, U of SC.  It’s happening on Aug 10 at 2 pm. Download the Sins of Omission Flyer for a link to register, or go to go.sc.edu/CASwebinars.

 

 

Before the pandemic, CSSC Social Justice Working Group had planned an all-day forum and community conversation on the topic of reparations to be held in late March. We will be rescheduling that event as soon as possible; meanwhile, the city council of Asheville, NC has formally “apologized for the North Carolina city’s historic role in slavery, discrimination and denial of basic liberties to Black residents and voted to provide reparations to them and their descendants.” Read the full story here.

Earlier this month, on July 6, CSSC Director Bernard Powers was interviewed on NPR. Go here to read or listen.

CSSC Director Bernard Powers co-authored this op-ed with local historian and attorney Robert Rosen suggesting a response to the city’s Confederate Defenders monument. “We propose a major world-class monument at White Point Garden to the African American heroes of the Civil War and the era of emancipation. We have many illustrious men and women to choose from.”

Dr. Powers and another C of C History professor, Adam Domby, are interviewed in this week’s Post and Courier podcast on John C. Calhoun and the monument that was removed on June 24, 2020 from Marion Square. Go here for a link to the podcast.  Charleston’s City Council has asked Dr. Powers and Robert Rosen to advise them on relocating the Calhoun statue, which is now being stored at an undisclosed location.

 

 

 

Many are reflecting on today’s 5-year anniversary of the massacre of nine members of Emanuel AME church on Calhoun Street, a few blocks from our campus. One of the nine was C of C librarian Cynthia Hurd, and Rev. Clementa Pinckney’s funeral was held on our campus in the TD Arena. The College Today has published a powerful interview with CSSC Director Bernard Powers, in which he reflects on the tragedy and the “legacy of hope” that is available to us today. Highlights of the interview are below. 

This is a congregation that has endured a history of severe trials – 2015 was just the most recent one. It is an example of a group of African Americans who have triumphed over a racist onslaught, and that triumph demonstrates that there are places where Dr. King’s vision of a “beloved community” still exists.

One has to have hope in order to embrace the future. They have demonstrated the motto of this state: Dum spiro spero – “While I breathe, I hope.” And while they continue to breathe and hope, the leaders there use their experiences to empower others threatened by the stultifying atmosphere of intolerance to survive and to breathe. This is why when the Pulse shootings occurred in Orlando, Rev. Deas of Emanuel went there to comfort the survivors. That is why Rev. Manning journeyed to Pittsburg to the Tree of Life Synagogue to share his experiences and comfort to leaders there who were victimized by a murderous antisemite. Members of that synagogue also returned the visit to Charleston, where they prayed with congregants within the walls of Mother Emanuel. So, in this sense, Mother Emanuel is a practical and symbolic bulwark against the forces of intolerance and brings together those intent on vanquishing it. [. . . ]

Evidence of racial inequality is even more dramatically evident today [than in 2015]. It is revealed by the racially disparate impact of the coronavirus, which demonstrates a range of inequalities based on race that influences health. Since 2015, we have had many more examples of mainly unarmed black men being mishandled and killed by police officers. These have been captured on cell phone videos. In 2015, the recording of Walter Scott’s death was unusual, but not now, and such evidence has demonstrated to so many whites that African American complaints have a real basis. This is a moment like that of the 1960s, when the civil rights movement attracted media attention in the South and the crimes against black people could no longer be denied as they were broadcast around the world via the international media. [. . .]

The ongoing demonstrations and marches now represent a difference. In 2015, a certain sense of malaise settled in over the city, it was a sense of collective trauma and also of disbelief that such an evil could occur in a sacred place. Today there is much more anger, which built up earlier in Brunswick, Georgia, and Minneapolis, Minnesota, because there were no immediate arrests, and that bred festering anger and uncertainty.  [. . .]

We should be asking ourselves: What are each of us doing to make sure that this period of social ferment is maximized to bring about substantive and lasting change? How have I and those who I know contributed to the disaffection and alienation felt by so many African Americans and whites of conscience? How can I move beyond simple personal efforts to promote change to join with others to change institutions and the way they operate to challenge systematic racism and other forms of exclusion/oppression?

Our atmosphere must be cleared of the oppressive and stultifying forces that limit our ability “to breathe” and to hope. Among the most deadly of such forces we find racism, antisemitism, homophobia and sexism, among others. We must join our forces as people of conscience and vow to vanquish them so that we can all dream dreams and take in the clear and healthy air that will allow us to achieve them for our collective benefit. Now is the time and my hope is that this moment will not be lost.

https://today.cofc.edu/2020/06/17/mother-emanuel-legacy-of-hope-five-years-later/

Dr. Powers co-authored We Are Charleston: Tragedy and Triumph at Mother Emanuel with Herb Frazier and Marjory Wentworth. He is the author of numerous articles and of the book Black Charlestonians: A Social History, 1822-1885.

 

 

The Center for the Study of Slavery in Charleston (CSSC) stands in complete solidarity and allyship with the families, protestors, and community members grieving and demanding justice for the recent murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery — and our own Walter Scott and the Emmanuel 9 (to name only a few). We recognize that these acts of violence are deeply rooted in the institution of slavery which served to deny the sanctity and sovereignty of Black life.

As a Center that studies the history and legacies of chattel slavery in the South, we see the recent instances of brutality occurring nationally and in Charleston as but the latest manifestations of our country’s long history of violence against Black, Brown, and Indigenous peoples. We are deeply pained by these tragic events, which serve to remind us all that the history of racism and white supremacy are clearly not past: we are still living them, and they are ever-present on our campus and in our local community. Because of this, the CSSC was established in 2018 to foster a deeper public understanding of slavery and its complex legacies. A part of our mission is to raise awareness and fight to bring an end to their brutal impacts. It is in this spirit that we stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and campus activists. 

We demand social justice. In March 2020, we had planned a community-wide conversation on reparations in Charleston that was interrupted by COVID-19. The combined tragedies of state violence against Black Americans and the disproportionate effects of the pandemic on the Black community highlight the urgency of this work. We call on the College of Charleston leadership to make good on its promise to combat racism and white privilege by dedicating more robust support to the CSSC. And in turn, the CSSC pledges to advance learning and research experiences for our students, staff, and faculty to further our understanding of how our history of slavery shapes the present, and to collaborate with members of the campus and Charleston community to create programming and restorative dialogue to promote social justice, racial healing, reconciliation, and transformational change.

We see our work as a tangible affirmation that Black Lives Matter (and have always mattered).

 

On Sunday, Feb 23, 4 PM, come to Wesley United Methodist Church on Johns Island for a program, “Awakening the Ancestors through Music.” Participants will learn about Lowcountry sprituals and funeral songs. Co-sponsored by International African American Museum, The Progressive Club of Johns Island, Gullah Geechee Heritage Corridor Commission, Charleston County Public Library, and Wesley United Methodist Church.

On Monday, Feb 24, 6 PM, come to the College of Charleston Sciences Auditorium, room 129, to hear a talk by Margaret Seidler, “Telling the Story of a Charleston Family of Slave Traders and Those They Sold.” Co-sponsored by the Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World (CLAW) program at C of C and the Center for Family History at the International African American Museum.

Flyer for Feb 23 event Flyer for Feb 24 event

CSSC Director Bernard Powers was interviewed on SC Public Radio this week, talking about the work of the Center.

Dr. Bernard Powers in front of Randolph Hall

Dr. Bernard Powers in front of C of C’s Randolph Hall

On February 1, Dr. Powers also represented the Center at “History Makers and Trailblazers,” a symposium on the “history of access, equity, and inclusivity” at the College. This event was part of the College’s 250th anniversary observances, which began last week. Dr. Powers moderated a panel entitled “Breaking the Color Barrier,” with C of C alums Otto German and Linda Dingle, Mayor Joe Riley, Dr. Andrew Lewis, and the Honorable Lucille Whipper, who had just received a Founders’ Day medal from the College (see photo below). Representative Whipper, who worked at C of C under President Ted Stern, was a memorable presence on the panel. As a student at Avery, she had applied to the College in 1944 and was rejected because of her race. The College finally desegregated in 1967.

This new SC Historic Marker notes that the College went private in 1949 to avoid integration.

At last week’s event, Rep. Whipper reminisced with Dr. Powers about her successful efforts in the 1980s to preserve the Avery Institute building and transform it into a part of the College, the Avery Research Center.

C of C President with Founders Day medal recipients

The Honorable Lucille Simmons Whipper, third from left, with President Andrew Hsu and other Founders Day medal recipients: Nigel Redden for Spoleto USA, Judge Richard Gergel on behalf of Judge Julius Waties Waring, Class of 1900.

More people question weddings at plantation sites

By Julia Eichelberger
Posted on 14 December 2019 | 2:25 pm — 

Bernard Powers, CSSC director, was on his way to do field research in the Caribbean when he was contacted by a BuzzFeed news reporter. “This is an article on the recent debate over weddings at plantation sites,” Dr. Powers notes. “Early this a.m., I was responding to the reporter on my phone on a small ferry plying the choppy waters between St. Kitts and Nevis.”

Here’s an excerpt from BuzzFeed News:

Dr. Bernard Powers, the director of the College of Charleston’s Center for the Study of Slavery in Charleston, told BuzzFeed News that the inherent beauty of plantations must be contextualized.

“If these places looked the same and had a different history, no one would object and they would simply be recognized for their beauty. And they are beautiful today because in part due to the knowledge of slave gardeners who tended [to] them,” he said. “Recognize the people who did the work and contrast the beauty with the brutality. Both occurred and must be recognized and reconciled.”

This country, Walcott-Wilson added, was built by slaves. Finding a wedding venue anywhere that hasn’t been touched by slavery would be difficult.

Read more at https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/clarissajanlim/bride-groom-plantation-wedding-slaves-criticism

 

 

On November 12 at 6 pm, in Room 227 of Addlestone Library, Dr. Alexis Wells-Oghoghomeh will deliver a lecture entitled “‘The Issue of Females’: Abortion, Infanticide, and Ethics in Southern Slavery.” Dr. Wells-Oghoghomeh is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Vanderbilt University. The Conseula Francis Emerging Scholar Lecture honors the memory and legacy of Conseula Francis, a greatly beloved C of C English professor and director of the program in African American Studies.


Nov 12 Lecture flyer

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