By Jack Jeffery
Fifty years ago may seem like worlds away. In a lot of ways it is. But Springfield College’s “A Day to Confront Racism” gave audience members a vivid glimpse back into the College’s past. There were four events scheduled to discuss antiracism, wrapped up with a talk from best-selling author Ibram Kendi. The third event of the day “A Moderated Dialogue With Members of Legacy Alumni: Moving the Needle,” was run by three core members of the Legacy Alumni of Color, a group that just formed six months ago.
“It was nine months ago that I got the call from Don Brown about this meeting up with students that I had not seen or heard from in 50 years,” said Springfield College graduate Teressa Brown who served as director of Continuing Education at the College for four years.
Fifty years ago Donald Brown, Teressa Burr, and Richard Griffin were students at Springfield College. There were only 12, 15 and 13 Black students in their respective classes. They faced significant racial barriers then and fifty years later they have come together in an improbable reunion to form The Legacy Alumni of Color and help the Black students of today fight some of those same battles they once faced.
Dr. Donald Brown, founder and CEO of Brown and Associates, a firm that supports low-income students of color at the middle school, high school, and college level, brought passion and heart to the stage at the event. Brown said towards the end of the event, “At some point my life will come to an end, its going to come to the end for others, and I’m hoping that the commentary that someone will offer, is that you may not have agree with what he said you may not, but you have to respect him because rather than a lot of lip service, he took action”
Browns words are not hollow. Brown took the lead in establishing the Legacy Alumni of Color and him and the other members have been fighting racial injustice for their entire lives.
“The legacy Alumni is an endearing group who really care for one another,” said Richard Griffin who has over 45 years of experience in the human relations field. “Its a friendship group.”
Brown, Griffin and Burr took audience members by the hand and brought them back to their time at Springfield College, they brought them back to what the Legacy Alumni of Color was founded on. In 1969 and 1970 Black students at Springfield College performed building takeovers on the Administration Building and Massasoit Hall. Building takeovers may sound aggressive but it was far from that.
Teressa Burr spoke on her experience with the building takeovers, “We weren’t out to harm or tear up the building we were tired of not getting answers to concerns that we had so collectively we decided were just going to takeover the building and that’s going force everyone to stop and pay attention and make some action.”
The action that The Legacy Alumni of Color took very well may be a reason why Springfield College has become increasingly aware and progressive in its efforts to to inform and teach about racism. There is though still a lot of progress to be made and the panelists ushered that sentiment vehemently.
Aside from the building takeovers, the panelists also talked about the list of demands they had drawn up for the Administration in their time at Springfield College. “Some of the thinking may have been a bit outlandish,” said Brown followed by a hearty laugh. Some of the demands consisted of; 200 or more black students in the incoming class, a black member in the admissions office, scholarships for black students, more black coaches and teachers, an establishment of a black studies program, as well as a day in orientation week focused on racial discrimination. While Brown may have thought some of it to be outlandish, he fought for what he believed in and some of those demands have come to fruition.
Springfield College still lacks diversity and unfortunately racism across the country persists but the Legacy Alumni of Color and the Day to Confront Racism are key windows to provide students with the insight to create change. Brown urged students. “To get into good trouble.”
For the future of Springfield College if the Legacy Alumni of Color could say one thing, they would say actions speak louder than words.
Photo: Springfield College