The Associated Students Office of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion and the Black Student Union held an event in remembrance of the ten-year anniversary of the Compton Cookout and Black Winter on Feb. 20. The event, which was attended by approximately 430 students, included panel discussions on the impact of Black Winter and included a focus on the need for constructive discourse and activism as a means of combating structural and social anti-blackness.
The Compton Cookout refers to a racially stereotypical off-campus party held by a group of UC San Diego students on Feb. 15, 2010, which was intended to mock Black History Month. The winter quarter that the party occurred became known as Black Winter to UCSD students and faculty.
The party was followed by a series of racially motivated events, including the usage of a racial slur by the satirical college paper The Koala, the finding of a noose in Geisel Library, and the placement of a Klu Klux Klan hood on the head of the Dr. Seuss statue.
In response, the BSU organized protests alongside groups such as the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlan. The BSU ultimately made a list of 32 demands for a more inclusive campus including the creation of a Black Resource Center and the establishment of the Diversity Equity and Inclusion course requirement.
The event first began with a land acknowledgement that UCSD is located on indigenous Kumeyaay land, which was followed by a moment of silence.
Current faculty and staff who worked during Black Winter took part in a panel discussion moderated by junior Jordan Ward, which focused on a wide range of topics including the panelists’ personal involvement with student organization during Black Winter and how non-black students can be effective activists. The panel included director of the LGBT Resource Center Shaun Travers, director of the Cross Cultural Center Edwina Welch Ed.D., Provost of Eleanor Roosevelt College Ivan Evans, and associate professor of African American literature Dennis Childs.
“How did I support [activists during Black Winter] personally?” Evans asked rhetorically on the panel. “I came there. I showed up. I listened. And I said, ‘you are my leaders,’ to the students.”
The second panel discussion was composed of UCSD alumni and current students. The panelists were education studies graduate student James Crawford, Thurgood Marshall College sophomore Leighla Buckner, Earl Warren College academic advisor Amado Berrios, former vice chair of the BSU Victor Brown, former events chair of the BSU and current structural engineering graduate student Theresa Richards, and Student Promoted Access Center for Education and Service retention program advisor Regine Reyes.
When asked about the current racial climate at UCSD as compared to 2010, Crawford talked about the role that resource centers such as the Black Resource Center can play in facilitating a greater sense of community.
“[UCSD] should not just be [an] ivory tower where we keep information locked up and we are doing all of these projects to benefit these Fortune 500 companies,” Crawford said. “Instead, we are here to make sure … we are not the only ones who are benefiting from these degrees … It is not just about ourselves, but it is about building that community … so to me, the BRC [has been] important for that.”
The event concluded with a speech by John Muir College Provost Wayne Yang which talked about the involvement of non-black allies during Black Winter and how they can continue to be constructive advocates for the black community.
“The opposite of anti-blackness is not diversity,” Yang said. “The opposite of anti-blackness is pro-blackness. I want us to all ask ourselves how we [create] pro-blackness… how are we doing pro-black actions, pro-black community, [and] pro-black spaces?”
In an email to the UCSD Guardian, Associate Vice President of EDI Noah Palafox expressed his hopes that the event could provide insight and awareness regarding Black Winter.
“For me personally, it was encouraging to bring together a portion of the University to unite, address, and engage each other in discussing some pretty complex concepts,” Palafox said. “I hope the event encouraged and informed future UCSD activists to create impactful movements, and demand equity in a constructive and inclusive manner.”
Marshall College sophomore Isaac Lara told the Guardian that he was surprised by the turnout and student interest in the event.
“It was really moving to see the EDI office host this event and to see this much mass attendance,” Lara said. “The audience was pretty engaged overall and I think that a lot of students got the key takeaway that they do have power to enact change.”
Throughout the rest of February, UCSD will be celebrating Black History Month with events such as film screenings and lectures. Students are encouraged to visit the UCSD Black History Month website to learn more.
Photo by Irvin Yang for the UCSD Guardian.