An assortment of Los Medanos College staff, faculty and students got to experience several presentations relative to the accomplishments of African-Americans in Monday’s college assembly meeting in Library Room 109. Predominantly black LMC staff members along the student senate and members of the Umoja program coordinated the event, which was primarily meant to inform people of the importance of black history. In addition, a new African American research guide was also announced by LMC librarian Christina Goff so that the teachers could “incorporate African American history” into their curriculums.
As part of the assembly, English instructor Tess Caldwell introduced Hip-hop journalist, activist and educator at San Francisco State University DJ Davey D, who started off by emphasizing the idea that history is important.
“Institutions will erase things … dissent is often erased,” he said, explaining that several years down the line, we will have forgotten all the fighting for our rights that we’ve done today. He cited recent incidents in states like Texas and Kentucky where there have been arguments about the content of the textbooks some of which have been written in favor “of the dominant half.”
“We talk about Abe Lincoln but never about Freddy Douglass or Sojourner Truth,” he continued, adding, “and I don’t know important this is for everyone to know but the first responder when 9/11 happened was a black man.” Davey D also mentioned that there were hundreds of slave rebellions and black people — particularly the black youth — which you don’t often hear about.
Some attendees made comments conveying surprise at the ideas presented.
What followed next was an anecdote about what happened when James Brown came to visit the radio station he was working at.
Davey D went on to state that it was four days after Columbine, and Brown wanted to talk to the local youth about how the black community “has their own Columbines.” But after being told “James Brown is not relevant to this audience,” he decided to let him come on his show. In the end, the interview was then pulled off the air.
Upon hearing this, the audience made sounds signifying disapproval.
“Meanwhile, next door the station was celebrating the long careers of artists like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones,” said Davey D.
The Hip-hop journalist then explained that stripping kids of color of the opportunity to learn about where their culture comes from “removes their rebelliousness.”
“It makes them soft, it makes them pliable and they’ll never challenge, “he said. “This means no innovation and no room for institution building … a lot of people are selfish and don’t want to change their ways.”
He also stated that people from marginalized communities are discouraged from looking at history and that even when they do, they don’t often see it in the right light. “They look at it as numbers and dates and not as concepts and narratives,” he said, adding that people often don’t see how these narratives are connected to modern day experiences.
After showing a short clip of an interview with ex-FBI informant Darthard Perry about how the FBI keeps hundreds of files on black culture in order to infiltrate the community when they feel threatened, Davey D concluded his speech by saying “institutions have long memories.”
After hearty applause from the audience, Davey D stepped aside to let the performers from Bay Area Youth drumming circle led by “master percussionist and teacher” Tacuma King.
The musicians filed in from the back of the room, engaging with the audience by giving them instruments and getting students to come up to the front and dance. The audience clapped along with the intricate drumbeats until King paused to orate on the place that dance and song holds in the communities of African-Americans, and how those mediums are crucial to creating an identity.
“There is an annihilation of culture is prevalent throughout the nation,” said King. “We were lynched for playing the drums, we were lynched for talking proper.”
He continued by saying that there is hope however, thanks to those willing to pass down history to youth. He then cited Davey D as an example, who humbly nodded when he referred to him as a “griot.”
Lastly, Caldwell introduced Dr. James Noel, English instructor at LMC, to read the poem “Listen Mr. Oxford don” by black British poet, John Agard.
Following the reading, LMC President Bob Kratochvil ended the meeting and thanked everyone for attending, joking how he was glad no one asked him to dance. After a hefty applause from the audience, the crowd was dismissed and encouraged to partake in the snacks and beverages that were provided.