This material is posted under a Creative Commons license. Please feel free to share these links, but please ask permission if you’d like to publish the material (highlights from the SLAM! Herstory interviews will probably be going into the book). Thanks!
Irini Neofotistos, interviewed 9/20/12 by Suzy Subways
Irini Neofotistos participated in SLAM! from 1996 to 2001, managing the student government office, editing the Envoy newspaper, coordinating direct action protests in the streets as a member of tactical teams elected by the group for various actions, and lending her logistics brain to the day-to-day functioning of the organization. She is a mother of two and lives in Astoria, Queens, where she grew up.
Repression of the Left in Greece: Neofotistos’ father’s experience
Neofotistos tells her father’s story of being a leftist in Greece, then being drafted by the military junta and put in the propaganda wing, then spending time in military prison. 1 minute, 49 seconds.
SLAM!’s role in NYC’s web of resistance
SLAM! as a multi-issue organization guided by “the personal is political,” fighting for students who came into student government with grievances related to everything from housing to transit fares to police brutality. How SLAM! fought for access to higher education and also helped to build a web of support among groups mobilizing against related injustices around the city. 4 minutes, 12 seconds.
SLAM!’s priorities: infrastructure vs protest
Neofotistos discusses the challenges of building and maintaining the infrastructure of student government and SLAM! as an organization vs. in-the-moment work to plan rallies. Was protest planning and outreach valued more? How did this relate to a gendered division of labor? 5 minutes, 8 seconds.
Austerity for education meant investment in repression and prison
Budget cuts and tuition hikes made public college less accessible to working-class students, while CUNY brought in more security to deal with the protests. This mirrored national trends of taking money out of education and increasing spending on imprisonment. 2 minutes, 29 seconds.
Student government tactics with administration: reform or disruption?
Neofotistos discusses the tensions between being in a position to make reform changes from within the college bureaucracy and building a mass movement. What are potential ways to disrupt rather than give those in power more legitimacy? 2 minutes, 37 seconds.
Protest security, protecting demonstrators from police
Protest security: re-con, security trainings, and the role of security in un-arrest, moving a crowd securely, protecting protesters from the police. 3 minutes, 25 seconds.
Changes in police tactics raise a challege
Neofotistos discusses the challenges of being an organizer of the large antiwar rally in NYC on Feb. 15, 2003, when police tactics had changed. Seeing people penned up was disturbing and meant the movement could no longer be transparent about the level of risk people were taking by going to a protest. 4 minutes, 38 seconds.
This oral history project is a work in progress, and we’re learning as we go. We want to share our interview recordings with current student activists and radicals everywhere in the hope that they’ll find wisdom here to enrich their work. We’ll be posting edited segments from the interviews, which are being done in a totally random order. This material is posted under a Creative Commons license. Please feel free to share these links, but please ask permission if you’d like to publish the material (these highlights will probably be going into the book). Thanks!
Brad Sigal, interviewed 9/8/12 by Suzy Subways
Brad Sigal was in SLAM! from 1996 until 2000, when he left New York. Sigal was part of citywide SLAM! and tried to start a chapter at John Jay College. He transferred to City College of New York (CCNY), where he worked on campaigns to keep admissions open and the college serving the Harlem and Washington Heights communities, as well as catalyzing radical student activism via the Messenger newspaper and graduate student government. He lives in Minnesota, where he is active in rank-and-file union work, the immigrants’ rights movement and socialist politics.
Repression at John Jay College
Sigal tells the story of how the administration at John Jay College, CUNY, tried to talk him out of registering SLAM! as a club there in 1996, because “There’s anarchists and communists in it, and it’s a really bad group of people.” 1 minute, 15 seconds.
The Pre-University Program at the Morales/Shakur Center at CCNY
The Pre-University Program, run by the Dominican Youth Union out of the Guillermo Morales/Assata Shakur Community and Student Center at CCNY, brought hundreds of high school students from Harlem and Washington Heights to the campus each weekend for events and academic support. 1 minute, 37 seconds.
How CCNY students defeated the CUNY Card and built solidarity with the community
Sigal explains how important it was to CCNY activists in the 90s to keep the campus open and accessible to the surrounding neighborhoods. Students defeated the CUNY Card initiative at CCNY, opposed arming campus security with guns, and walked picket lines with workers at Harlem Hospital. 2 minutes, 30 seconds.
CCNY administration shuts down the Messenger and grad student government
CCNY President Yolanda Moses shuts down the Messenger newspaper and the graduate student government after activists win the elections. 3 minutes, 57 seconds.
How activists found out about the surveillance camera aimed at the door of their center
A CCNY janitor tells student activists that the smoke detector outside the Morales-Shakur Center is actually a hidden surveillance camera, aimed right at the door. 2 minutes, 22 seconds.
The Little Red Study Group
Sigal tells the story of the Little Red Study Group, which he helped to form with other SLAM! members hoping it could lead to a revolutionary organization for the core founders of SLAM!, who were moving on after graduation. 7 minutes, 47 seconds.
Posted in access to education, audio, Black community and SLAM, newspapers edited by SLAM! members, Organizing tactics and strategy, Uncategorized | Tagged CCNY, John Jay College, student activists | Leave a Comment »
“Don’t Shoot the Messenger: Six Years of Struggle by CCNY’s Banned, Stolen, Defunded, Defamed, Award-Winning Student Newspaper, 1998-2004″ is now available as a PDF for download, thanks to former editor Brad Sigal.
Click here to download it!
City College of New York (CCNY) has been in the news for raiding and shutting down the Guillermo Morales/Assata Shakur community and student center on October 20th without any notice to students or the community. Students have repeatedly demonstrated and held sit-ins to get the center back, and CCNY has suspended two student leaders. This type of repression is not happening for the first time, by far, as you’ll read in these 10- to 15-year-old issues of the Messenger newspaper.
The Messenger was named after a 1920s Black socialist magazine started by Chandler Owen and A. Philip Randolph, the labor organizer, who had attended CCNY. This anthology includes most of the Messenger‘s articles from 1998 to 2004 under editors Brad Sigal and Hank Williams, important articles from previous publications, and some tools for students starting radical campus newspapers.
“The articles herein will update CCNY students on their campus’s recent history and can serve as a resource for the next generation of CUNY students fighting for social justice and student rights,” Rob Wallace writes in the preface. Enjoy!
—> —> Click here: Mumia_Youth_Rising_2000 to get a closer look at this striking piece of movement literature produced by SLAM! members along with high school student activist interns for a massive hip-hop concert at Hunter College in June 2000. The magazine features an interview with organizer Rachèl LaForest, a poem by Suheir Hammad, an article by Mumia Abu-Jamal, articles by the high school students, and more!
Click on the bold, red text above to see the entire, full-size pdf!
Posted in Black community and SLAM, Decolonization of the mind, Organizing tactics and strategy, police brutality, Radical people of color organizing, SLAM founders, spoken word, Uncategorized, women of color | Tagged Amadou Diallo, https://slamherstory.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/suheirpoem.jpg?w=300, Jed Brandt, Mumia Abu-Jamal, police brutality, politics, Rachel Laforest, SLAM, Suheir Hammad | Leave a Comment »
SLAM! members Liam Flynn-Jambeck and Luz Schreiber were snapped by a NY Times photographer for the 11/23/99 article, “Plan to Exclude Remedial Students Approved at CUNY,” by Karen Arenson. Pushed and prodded by Gov. Pataki and Mayor Giuliani, and inspired by the powerful right-wing think tank Manhattan Institute, the CUNY Board of Trustees had already voted twice to end Open Admissions. The trustees’ May 26, 1998 vote was stopped in its tracks by a student/faculty lawsuit charging that they had broken the open meetings law by throwing out ALL members of the public, not just those of us (ahem!) who were disruptive. A January 1999 vote, while students were on winter break, was deemed legit, despite being practically drowned out by hundreds of chanting students opposed to the plan.
The New York State Regents were CUNY’s last hope to keep remediation at its 4-year colleges for students accepted to its BA programs. At the time, 81% of public 4-year colleges in the U.S. offered remedial classes, according to Arenson’s article.
All four of the regents identified as Black or Hispanic voted nay. Check out this quote from the article:
Ena L. Farley, who also voted against the measure, called it a ”grave injustice to turn away people with the determination to succeed” and called education the ”most contested opportunity in the United States.” She said CUNY’s policy would force people to ”beg and cringe and crawl” in seeking a college education.
So why did the plan get the Regents’ nod with the bare minimum of votes? Arenson followed up with a very interesting article 2 days after the meeting: “Opponents of a Change in CUNY Admissions Policy Helped Pass a Compromise Plan.”
The policy squeaked through the Regents with exactly the nine votes needed for passage and several Regents who voted yes said they would not have approved the policy without knowing that Friends of CUNY had exacted some conditions and now supported its passage.
The Friends of CUNY had won some concessions, including a delay at 2 campuses, follow-up research, and the right for some students to petition to take classes they’d be blocked from attending. But with “Friends” like these, CUNY’s enemies easily ended Open Admissions shortly thereafter. Another paragraph from the second article offers insight into who these powerful liberals were:
The informal group that played a backstage role in brokering a compromise deal included Edward C. Sullivan, chairman of the State Assembly’s higher education committee, Bernard Sohmer, chairman of the CUNY faculty senate, Irwin Polishook, the head of the CUNY faculty union, James P. Murphy, a former CUNY chairman, Julius C. C. Edelstein, a former CUNY vice chancellor, and Roscoe Brown, former president of Bronx Community College. The Friends of CUNY group to which most of them belong has for more than a year questioned the motives and policies of CUNY’s trustees.
Less than a year after the global justice movement dramatically announced its arrival in the U.S. by shutting down the World Trade Organization meetings in Seattle, thousands of activists from the global justice movement took the streets of Philadelphia for direct action against police brutality and the prison industrial complex on August 1, 2000, during the Republican National Convention. We called it R2K. SLAM members were instrumental in the planning and participation.
With “Where Was the Color in Seattle?” Elizabeth “Betita” Martinez challenged the emerging global justice movement to grow its roots deep. SLAM had some ideas for how to do that. Along with people of color and allies in Philadelphia, SLAM argued for R2K to focus on issues vital to communities of color in the U.S. (See “Activists of Color in the New Movement: Lessons from RNC Organizing” by Philadelphia activist Amadee Braxton, and the film A is for Anarchist, B is for Brown).
More than 400 activists were arrested during R2K, many in a raid on puppet-makers early August 1st. While in jail for up to 3 weeks, Continue Reading »