Almost two months after CCNY admins seized the Guillermo Morales-Assata Shakur Student & Community Center, students and community supporters held an open mic outside the NAC Thursday evening, before marching through Harlem to spread their message.
After briefly circling the plaza, chanting, “No Center, No Peace!” the crowd heard Brother Shep speak (all of which you can see here). A former Black Panther and the center’s chairperson, Shep loudly announced 10 demands for the administration and CUNY Board Of Trustees. They included financial compensation for the services disrupted through the center’s loss, an immediate return of all property confiscated from the center and, of course, its return to autonomous student control.
Amalu Orond, a leading activist in the struggle, stressed how other student havens are not safe. “I try to tell folks, if one safe space can be taken, all safe spaces can be taken,” Orond said. “It’s the Morales-Shakur Center today, but when they want your homes to build more spaces for Columbia, they’re coming for your homes.”
“I’m a queer Latina who made a special space for myself and others who were erased and dehumanized in the university system,” said Alyssia Osorio, the center’s director. “My role in the struggle and what I want my college to build is the world I wanna see for myself through love, care, knowledge and community.”
Speaking on how the center was taken, Osorio noted that “it is pretty obvious that my college never cared about consent, whether it’s building a multicultural resource center or even acknowledging there’s a problem with rape and sexual assault on campus.”
Osorio then noted how two CCNY Secrets postings earlier this year detailed the rape and molestation of students sleeping in the Cohen Library, “as a public safety officer noticed and gave a thumbs-up.”
Though SER confronted President Lisa Staiano-Coico over the incidents at one of her round tables, Osorio says she never publicly supported resources for students dealing with gender violence.
Giving a brief “Hi Enemy” to the stone-faced CUNY officers barricading the entrance, Lehman College student Damien said that “the real enemy is behind administration walls, looking at us right now.”
“It’s not only a CUNY-wide thing; it’s happening all over the country,” the People Power Movement member added. “We’re gonna stay here and we’re gonna keep this going.”
The crowd eventually decided to march down Amsterdam Avenue on the street, chanting, “Whose CUNY? Our CUNY!” This soon attracted NYPD attention; a loudspeaker from a trailing cruiser ordered them onto the sidewalk-which they ignored (see part of it here).
Turning left on 125th Street, the group stopped outside the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building. Taking a moment of silence to honor Nelson Mandela’s passing, they concluded the day’s actions with one more speakout. Suspended CCNY student and Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee member Tafadar Sourov was also present.
“We don’t need no permits; we don’t need nobody’s authority!” Orond said. “We have the power!”
“I want everybody to remember that when they are fighting for the center, they are not just fighting for a space within CUNY. They are fighting and upholding that legacy of Assata Shakur and of Guillermo Morales,” said Luis, a member of RSCC. “They started a task in the 60s and 70s that is still left undone. And in order to have that task fulfilled, we must win back the center, but demand more.”
“We must make CUNY a liberated institution for the people.”
See more pictures from the event below: