Interview by Mahala Herron and Cierra Black & transcription by Omar Abdulkarim.
On Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, the last day of Black history month, Black students rallied at the USC vs UCLA game to protest the lack of student resources for Black students on campus. With hopes that campus administrators meet their demands, there was a press conference held in the Student Activities Center on campus where Mahala Herron and Cierra Black interviewed Isaiah Njoku, the current chair president of the Afrikan Student Union (ASU), who was one of the organizers of the demonstration.
Mahala: So what is the Black Out and what are you guys standing for?
Isaiah: So today’s game, UCLA v.s. USC, occurring at 6 PM, is going to be the blue out game so they’re handing everybody blue T-shirts and expecting them to wear them. The ASU and those standing in solidarity, will be wearing all black to stand out from the crowd and to portray the power of the African Student Union. The mission is essentially a nonviolent demonstration to portray the power of the ASU and those standing in solidarity and the lack of attention that the administration has given to the ASU over the course of the past few years as well as their list of demands.
Mahala: So what are your demands?
Isaiah: We are demanding a Black Bruin Resource Center (BBRC) as well as a $40 million endowment to fund this BBRC. We are also requesting an investigative task force that is specifically tasked with investigative efforts of issues within the Equity Diversion Inclusion Office of Student Affairs. We are also asking for the renaming of Campbell Hall to Bunche and Carter Hall and anti-discriminatory policies and proper repercussions and consequences for infractions of this policy.
Cierra: Could you explain a little bit more about the $40 million dollar endowment, who is that going to, what does it cover, and who would fund it?
Isaiah: So these funds would be coming from the administration and more importantly be coming from the state as there is an equity fund that is provided by the state that this money could be allocated towards the BBRC for UCLA. This would be going to fund student career workers who would be working within the center to keep the lights running, obviously maintain the space, as well as for the full-time staff director of the center, and as well as housing the various Harambe council organizations and funding their contingency for their programming as well as the ASU’s programming. Programs such as Higher Education Conference, All Afrikan Peoples Graduation, Admit Weekend, Black Bruin Transfer Extravaganza, and other regular programs as well.
Cierra: Is it specifically just for programming efforts and student activity and organizing efforts?
Isaiah: It’s not solely for programming efforts rather just to provide programming support that’s not necessarily being provided by the university. However it also includes like I said the career workers, the director, as well as resources that are going to be provided by the center including printing, furniture, computers, all of which need maintenance and require money to do so.
Cierra: So is the intent for the $40 million endowment at any point going to things outside of the resource center such as scholarships or faculty/staff?
Isaiah: Yes so it’s definitely going towards funding scholarships as well as hopefully bolstering the current scholarships being developed in terms of the entrepreneurial fund given during last years All Afrikan Peoples Graduation. It would also be given to fund possible efforts for students in terms of programming outreach and retention within the Academic Supports Program and Students Heightening Academic Performance through Education (SHAPE).
Mahala: Are you guys are asking for $40 million over a span of time or just initially? Like how long would these funds last?
Isaiah: So when you endow, you would shave off 4% off the top every single year so we will be approximately receiving $2 million each year to fund everything that I’ve named previously. An endowment would be forever so we will be receiving $2 million yearly. We would like this amount as soon as possible at the latest at the end of the year and we will continue to be advocating for this if it’s not achieved during this year. Also in addition to everything that the $40 million endowment is supposed to fund, it is also supposed to help bring more Black faculty and staff into the university and then also to just generate more support in terms of ensuring that although Black professors may not be tenured, ensuring that they have support from the ASU with this $40 million endowment.
Mahala: Why should Black Bruins get a resource center as opposed to Asian students, Latinx students, or students other than Black?
Isaiah: It’s not necessarily whether Black students should be getting it or not in contrast to other communities because we are all working in tandem to achieve centers for all of us. It is rather that the Black resource center is the first of many to come, so we need to establish our own BBRC, we need to establish a Pacific Islander resource center and really a resource center/safe space for all these communities to which they can feel appreciated. This has been an ask of the ASU for decades and we are not willing to let that go anymore.
Cierra: Is this [Black Out] the only effort that you guys will be doing as far as pushing for the demands?
Isaiah: No, this is not the only effort, there is more to come in the case that administration and other UCLA entities do not fulfill our demands and obviously this is one advance in the course of a long span of history so this will not be the end all be all of change on this campus.
Mahala: Thank you!