May 2, 2021
Pitzer’s Inaugural Black Alumni Caucus was an intergenerational conversation about the lived experience of Black students, now alumni, of Pitzer College and the actionable next steps for upholding our core values through accountability, community, and resolution to create true equity for the next generation.
Introduction by Brandon Kyle, Director of Alumni & Family Engagement
Moderator: Pitzer Alumni Board member Derric J. Johnson ’95
Panelists: Judge Mablean Ephriam ’71, Germaine Jackson ’93, Jai Phillips ’02, Paris Primm ’22
Brandon Kyle: We’ll go ahead and get started. Greetings, everyone, and welcome to our True Equity conversation series. It is such a pleasure to be here with you all this evening. Thank you so much for joining us for this very important discussion. My name is Brandon Kyle, and I’m the Director of Alumni and Family Engagement here at Pitzer and I’ve have the privilege of developing this program alongside our esteemed volunteer leadership, Family Leadership Council member Julia Weber P’23, and Alumni Board Member Derrick Johnson, class of 1995.
Tonight is part three in a series of four unique conversations about systemic racial injustice, lived experiences, community coalitions and fundamental change at Pitzer College, and in the US. This series was initiated by the Office of College Advancement at Pitzer, and this was in response, actually, to President Melvin Oliver’s Racial Justice Initiative for the College and our shared desire to create true equity throughout our institutions and in our lifetimes.
True Equity Part One discussed systemic change with a reflective conversation about the racial wealth gap, Pitzer’s Racial Justice Initiative and the need for radical imagination to create a multiracial democracy. That was held during Family Weekend, this launching event featured Pitzer College President Melvin Oliver, and co-author of Black Wealth, White Wealth, and Pitzer trustee Angela Glover Blackwell, the founder of PolicyLink.
True Equity Part Two, Color in the Ivory Tower, examined a frank conversation about the state of diversity at Pitzer College and in higher education, was led by Pitzer’s Associate Dean and Professor Adrian Pantoja. And now, Part Three, Our Stories, Pitzer’s Inaugural Black Alumni Caucus, where we have a group of incredible alumni and one student from the class of 2022, joining us to discuss their lived experiences.
With that said, I’d like to take this time to welcome and introduce Pitzer College Alumni Board Member Derric J. Johnson, class of 1995, who will be our moderator for this conversation. But before I hand it over, I would like to share a little bit about Derric because he’s too humble to share all of his many, many accomplishments. So, in addition to being a valued member of the Alumni Board, Derric serves as a member of the senior administrative team at the Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences and is the founding director of Crossroads Equity Justice Institute, which oversees social justice, advocacy and equity education on [unintelligible]. Prior to Crossroads, Derric was Senior Deputy Public Safety and Justice for the office of Los Angeles County Board of Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. In this role Derric’s achievements include establishing the Civilian Oversight Commission of the sheriff’s department to increase transparency and decrease officer-involved shootings, improving protections for foster youth in California, and reframing the largest probation department in the US. He also procured $5 million from the state’s Juvenile Justice and Crime Prevention funds to support restorative justice and community-based programs to divert youth from juvenile justice systems. Derrick earned his BA in sociology from Pitzer as a National Urban fellow, he was awarded his secondary Master’s in Public Administration from Barush College-City University of New York and completed a master’s in business management from Azusa Pacific University. And now without further ado, I would like to introduce Derric J. Johnson.
Derric J. Johnson: Well, thank you and my sincere appreciation for the intro and kind remarks, Brandon, but more importantly, I want to acknowledge you for all you’ve done to make this event happen, your hard work, dedication, partnership in this effort. So, a big thank you for you getting this organized. And greetings, everyone viewing, trusting that you’re all safe, healthy and practicing rituals of self-care. We give thanks for tuning in and spending some time with us on a Saturday evening. You didn’t have to be here with us, but we appreciate you taking the time out to do so.
Before we begin, I really want to dedicate tonight’s conversation to a former professor of mine from Pitzer College and my classmate Germaine Jackson, Pitzer College Professor Emerita of English and Black Studies Miss Agnes Moreland Jackson. Professor Jackson was the school’s first tenure track African American professor, and she was instrumental in establishing and advancing the Black Studies and Women’s Studies department at the Claremont Colleges. She was a stalwart community activist. Professor Jackson was one of my more formative educators, mentors, and earliest influences, and she passed away, unfortunately, last April. Additionally, in honor of Mother’s Day next weekend, I want to pay final respects to my own mother, Miss Rose Johnson. On Tuesday, she transitioned from this world to the next after a courageous fight against cancer. So, we love you, we love you, we love you.
So, moving forward to our program, as advertised this event is constructed to be an intergenerational conversation about the lived experiences of Black students from Pitzer College. We hope to explore the opportunity to advance and/or build an institution that upholds the core values of accountability, community with the resolution to create true equity for the next generation of students. Tonight, we’ll engage in conversation about equity from an institutional context and its efforts and its effects, excuse me, on the end user, and that’s the students.
So, let’s introduce our outstanding panelists tonight. They include Judge Mablean Ephriam, a former Los Angeles prosecuting attorney. She is best known as the adjudicator for the popular court room series Divorce Court for seven seasons. She’s a Pitzer alum from the class of 1971 and followed her undergraduate studies by obtaining her law degree and passing the bar in 1978. Today, Judge Mablean is involved in day-to-day operations of her 501 c three nonprofits, the Mablean Ephraim Foundation, whose mission is to strengthen families, educate minds and financially empower the residents of under-resourced communities in Los Angeles County. The Foundation has adopted two schools, Perry Middle School, which is in Gardena and her alma mater Jefferson High School, providing both academic and cultural enrichment programs and scholarships for graduating seniors. She’s also the founder of an annual event honoring Unsung Fathers Awards and a scholarship brunch.
Next is Miss Germaine Jackson, a native Californian. She holds a BA degree in biology from Pitzer College. She’s the class of 1993, a master’s degree in kinesiology from Indiana University and a master’s degree in education leadership from UCLA. She has worked in public and private education for 25 years focusing on curriculum development, culturally relevant teaching, student leadership and community engagement. During her tenure in independent school, she worked with the National Association of Independent Schools Equity and Justice team creating programs, initiatives, and conferences for membership schools. As a result of her leadership, her schools have been recognized for their excellence in arts, humanities, and community service. These awards include the Hart Charter School of the Year, California Distinguished School and the Gold Ribbon awards. In 2020, Germaine was recognized by the National Action Network as a California education champion for closing the achievement gap for African American students in English and math. Her Wilder’s Preparatory Academy in Inglewood was identified as the highest achieving elementary and middle school in the state of California for serving African American students.
Next is Mr. Jai Phillips. Jai directs the Ready to Rise initiative as part of the California Community Foundation’s public-private partnership with the Los Angeles County Probation Department. Additionally, Jai manages CCF youth development, juvenile justice and boys and men of color portfolios to advance the foundation’s overarching vision, providing youth and families with culturally responsive asset-based resources and opportunities towards successful pathways to adulthood. A lifelong South Los Angeles resident, Jai is committed to empowering youth to change their trajectories through a comprehensive approach that addresses their multifaceted needs. Prior to joining CCF, he served as a Regional Development Officer for the Children’s Defense Fund California, where he led organization strategies for developing relationships and partnerships to achieve fundraising goals, program sustainability and expansion. He also served as development operations manager for the Jackie Robinson Foundation, responsible for providing scholarships, mentoring, and leadership opportunities for underserved youth across the country for nearly a decade. Jai studied at Pitzer College, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in both psychology and Black Studies in 2002.
And our final panelist this evening is Miss Paris Primm. Originally from Inglewood, California, attending City Honors High School where she was the editor-in-chief of her high school newspaper, The Daily Jaguar. She is currently a junior at Pitzer and is a member of the class of 2022. Paris is majoring in organizational studies. She’s representing the Black Student Union for this evening, along with being a diversity intern in the Office of Admissions and a development ambassador in the Office of Advancement and Communications. Paris is looking forward to starting her senior year back on campus in the fall.
All right. Now that we’ve gotten all the kudos and the salutations out of the way, let’s get to this conversation. So, let’s try to start from the beginning. Take me back to your first introduction to Pitzer. What initially attracted you to the college? And if you could describe that feeling in three words or a short phrase, what would that be? Paris, let’s start with you and then go around the room.
Paris Primm: I first heard about Pitzer in my junior year of high school, so four years ago exactly. And I was like okay, this seems cool, never heard of Pitzer ever, or The Claremont Colleges. I went to visit Pitzer that junior year. It was just, I’m better at describing it now. At first it was indescribable, it was, I just feel good here. I feel warm there. I feel like I belong there. And I was just walking on campus; my mom drove me all the way out there from Inglewood, to Pitzer’s campus. And we just got out the car and I already felt good. And I felt that I belonged there, and went through the whole day of programming from the Admission office and everything was just like, it just seemed right. So, it was definitely warmth, that’s my word now that I can describe Pitzer.
Derric J. Johnson: Fantastic. Germaine?
Germaine Jackson: Well, ironically, warmth was one of my words too, Paris. I think that I may be one, if not a few of only students who are actually legacy. I learned about Pitzer from my family. My mother is a class of 1973 and my aunt also attended Pitzer. So, I learned all about Pitzer from hearing stories about their college days. And similar to Paris’ story, when I came on campus, it just felt warm, very inviting, people were welcoming. Even now when I go to visit, you know just the environment, the consciousness of the environment, you could feel that. So definitely if I had my three words, welcoming, inviting and warm.
Derric J. Johnson: Jai, how about you?
Jai Phillips: I actually had not really heard about Pitzer or stepped foot on the campus of Pitzer until I started my very first day. My journey to college was that of someone of fear leaving South Los Angeles and not wanting to be on a very large campus. And so a friend of mine actually suggested that I apply to Pitzer knowing that I wanted something that felt relatively small and familiar. And Pitzer did not disappoint. I remember I stepped on campus was warmly greeted by multiple folks. In my year, when I stepped on his campus in 1998, I was one of 13 Black students and at the time, it was the highest number of Black students enrolled in Pitzer’s freshman class. And so needless to say, folks were seeking us out. So, it was a very warm and inviting from the very first day.
Derric J. Johnson: And Judge, your experience?
Judge Mablean Ephriam: Interesting. I stepped on Pitzer’s campus, I was invited by Marguerite Archie Hudson through the Upward Bound program that began as part of President Johnson’s programs for impoverished students and to give us a different perspective. She took us around to college campuses from Jefferson, kids from several schools in Los Angeles. She took us to the state campuses and then she said, I want you to go to small private college campuses, which I had never heard of other than USC. No one had ever talked to me about private colleges, a small campus. I went to USC, too close to home, went to UCLA, too big. Went to Pitzer. So, here’s what brought me there: size, small campus and at the time it was really small, less than 200 students, proximity to home, far enough so mommy couldn’t get there but close enough so I could get to mommy when I wanted to. And scholarships, they offered very good scholarships in those years, they were really actively recruiting minority students and gave me a full ride scholarship. So, all of those factors are what led me to Pitzer.
Derric J. Johnson: Fantastic. And I’m curious as an alumnus to hear if you remain connected with Pitzer College since your respective graduations. If yes or no, why, and what keeps you engaged or on the other end, what disconnects you from the campus?
Germaine Jackson: I’ve attended a handful of reunions. I think the last one was my 20-year. And through emails and different things that they send out, find myself connected to different things when they have guest speakers. I do find myself more connected to Pitzer alums just in my work. I’m always pleasantly surprised to find out people that I work with. Just recently I changed jobs and found out our college counselor went to Pitzer. Many of my friends in the world of education are Pitzer alums. I was on a committee years ago, that was specifically for African American educators. And after beginning a conversation with the director at the time, Deborah Watkins, found out that she was a Pitzer alum. So I’m always pleasantly surprised throughout my work in the Los Angeles and Southern California area to interact with people. And as you get that feeling, like you know that good feeling we’re ready to get some work done, and get our hands dirty, and as you have that conversation, you find out they went to Pitzer. So what are some of the reasons why maybe I have been more involved? Really, timing. I mean, a lot of the alumni events, when you work in education, run the same time as my school events. And so, it’s always been my desire to return back to campus. But most of the reasons why have been personal in terms of my own schedule, and not for lack of not wanting to come.
Derric J. Johnson: Jai, How about you?
Jai Phillips: So, I would say yes and no to that. I’m a people person so I’m very connected to my core group of friends that have graduated from Pitzer College in and around my same year. We’re like family. However, when you talk about the institution itself, it’s really touch and go. And part of that reason is that when I try to engage in attending the reunions every so often, I see that there’s low attendance. And oftentimes, I’m one of very few in my class, and typically the only Black person in my class that’s there, who’s come back. And so, it just doesn’t feel the same. It feels like I’ve entered in a mixer where I know no one, like one of those after work network mixers that you try to go to. I am connected to the place but not necessarily the people because the people who are there are so far removed from the time that I was there to have a completely different experience. And it makes for some great conversation, but it’s not drawing me in to coming year after year, so I typically only come back on milestone years.
Derric J. Johnson: Sure. Judge, how about your experience?
Judge Mablean Ephriam: I’ve been somewhat connected. And after the initial graduation a few years afterwards, I went back to reunions, but there were only a few of us, few Blacks on the campus altogether. So maybe about eight of us. And so when those stopped coming to reunions, I didn’t know anybody because when I got to know people on campus, I have to say it was mostly the Black students, through the Black Students Union and the Black Studies Center that we founded, the Class of ’71, that class, and so that’s why I didn’t go. But then, I have gone back to participate in alumni activities. I’ve gone back as a guest speaker. I’ve gone back for a career night several times. I did fund a scholarship in my name when I was on Divorce Court, but then I lost the job and they have strict rules on funding scholarships. I was unable to keep the funding because you have to pay X amount of dollars per year in order for you to have a funded scholarship. I really feel indebted to Pitzer, they really gave me a good education and I do want to participate. While I try to send some kind of funds for scholarships every year, and that’s the extent of my participation now. I chose to send some donation for scholarships, whatever funds they have there.
Derric J. Johnson: I think I’ll interject here and actually talk about my own personal experience and connection too, my experience is a lot like Jai’s. I’m appreciative to have the education that was afforded to me from Pitzer College, but I’m really, in about 25 years since my graduation, have not been that engaged or connected to the school based on my own experience while I was there. And a number of my cohort, the group, who happened to be African Americans from the 90s into the 2000s also have remained pretty much disconnected. The school hadn’t really reached out or constructed things that were in alignment with areas of interest, of focus for what we thought would be galvanizing a group of African American students and actually doing programming that centered on inclusion, belonging, diversity, and expansion on cultural competency as it relates to curriculum in class. It wasn’t really until about two years ago, where a classmate of mine from ’95, Michele Siquieros who actually happens to be the president of our alumni board, reached out to me directly and said, Hey, we’d like to do some things on campus. And would you be interested in coming back on board? And I was hesitant initially, because I really didn’t have a sense of what the school was about currently. But in engaging with the current African American president, President Oliver, and having a conversation with him about intentionality and some things that he wanted to try to get accomplished, I reengaged, and that’s what has essentially prompted this conversation today as well.
Judge Mablean Ephriam: I do think that it’s a quality school and offers a good education. So I encourage students to apply as part of my scholarship program, always try to encourage someone to apply to Pitzer. I finally got a niece of mine, she went as a transfer student, I was tired of her being in junior college, just like “Okay, girl, you got to finish this and get to a four-year university.” So, she went to Pitzer and graduated in 2007. So, I have been active in that in that way and encouraging others to go, and I do talk about the school frequently.
Derric J. Johnson: That’s great. And I want to piggyback on what you just said, too, because literally right now, this is the first time I’ve heard about your scholarship program. And so I think that this is kind of a catalyst of what I was describing before. What are the communication strategies as a relates to getting that information out, and articulating what’s available to actually bring in a pipeline of students? And so I appreciate you elevating that in this conversation today. Let’s define, I’m really curious about when you were at school, what do you define what community meant to you while you were in Claremont? Where did you find your safe haven? And was the 5C consortium of schools a consistent resource for you?
Judge Mablean Ephriam: Okay. Let’s see, I had to write that down. Oh, my resources, of course, was the Black Studies Center. Initially, there were only eight students at Pitzer. And then so in order for us to form a family and a community of Black students, so we wouldn’t feel so disconnected, because I went in ’67, starting in September ‘67. And then come April ‘68, Martin Luther King is killed. So that really changed the trajectory of everything in the way people felt and attitudes, and then it became this whole issue of race and discrimination and equity and equality, and all of those things we started to talk about. So, we formed the Black Studies Center, we began to demand more Black teachers and professors. As you said, Professor Jackson was the first and the only for a number of years. As a matter of fact, I am handling Professor Jackson’s estate. Barbara [unintelligible], one of my classmates she sort of adopted, and Barbara has her adopted daughter, who’s the trustee, and I’m handling the estate. So that’s an honor. But that’s how we connected through the five schools, because in order for it to be any real community of Black students, it took all five schools. And those five schools made up about 40 of us. So we connected and that was our family.
And then we formed the Black Studies Center and began to ask for more Black professors and teachers and actually recruited. I recruited Stanley Crouch, who happened to have been a neighbor of mine in the community, lived up on Central Avenue and I knew how brilliant he was and so he came to the campus and we started recruiting professors. I joined the Board of Trustees and started recruiting as well. So that was the way we connected with Pitzer, the Black Studies program. We went into the community of Pomona. And we started a day school and we started an after school program and we brought kids to the campus to introduce them to college life and all that kind of stuff. So that’s what the 5C’s were, we did everything together. We had our parties, we played cards over, we met over at CMC in the Student Union, that was our main place to hang out. We went to the games at Pomona because it was the only school that had athletics. So we went to games and things at Pomona. We gathered as groups to get in cars and go to the parties up and down the schools. From Redlands to Cal Poly Pomona, to the University of La Verne, and you probably do the same thing. We even came back into LA, of course. I happen to have had a car, I got a car as a graduation gift so I did a lot of driving.
That was it. It was really a great camaraderie between the schools. We took intercollegiate classes, which was very interesting. Having to take a class at Scripps was different than taking a class at Pitzer, taking the class at Pomona was different. So we had the ability to do that. And we really were a family and united as a group of students supporting each other, which was really important, supporting each other, and making certain that each of us graduated. I think we had the largest number of graduates of any class of students, I believe, most of the students who came in ’67, those years, graduated. So it was a really good experience in terms of that, especially once we formed the Black Studies Center and making certain that the school did reach out to the community and tried to get more students and etc, etc. in scholarships. That’s the question, I think.
Derric J. Johnson: Absolutely. Jai?
Jai Phillips: So, for me, I was able to float. I just had that personality where I can float in between spaces. And so, I had my group of Black friends on Pitzer’s campus, but also very involved in Office of Black Student Affairs. I worked there as public relations person, and then helped to launch the Black Ball that went on for several years afterward.
Judge Mablean Ephriam: Never heard of that!
Jai Phillips: We actually had a formal Black Ball, it went on for a few years where we had an auditorium on Pomona’s campus and all got dressed up. It was like a prom thing one year, we had a show with African design attire, and it was a really nice thing, but I don’t think it lived for very long afterward. But then also, I noticed that the different halls had different personalities. So, I could float in between the different halls. You went to Holden, that was one atmosphere, you went to Sanborn, that was a different atmosphere. And then you went to Mead, which was a whole other different atmosphere, right? And so, I kind of floated in-between spaces, but my core group was definitely my Black family. That’s who I spent the most of my time with, that’s who I’m still closest to, to this day in terms of folks who I talk to on a very regular. And so, without them, I don’t think that there would have been much cohesion with me being at Pitzer. Things that I struggled with when I first got to Pitzer was for one, being in an environment where you’re not only in an institution of higher learning, but you’re in an environment that doesn’t have a lot of Black folks even around it unless you go all the way to Pomona. So, things like finding your hair products (I believe that’s no problem now), but also barbers was an issue. We were cutting each other’s hair, it was just kind of like because you didn’t have things that are readily available. And so, having folks you could talk to and who understood kind of like your struggle, are we going to caravan to LA just to get the simple things.
Judge Mablean Ephriam: What we did was protest and went to the stores and said, you got to put some products in here because you got all these Black students at the Claremont Colleges. So now we need to put these kinds of hair products in your store. They did. I guess they took them out by the time you got there.
Jai Phillips: So, I was one of their team, but I was actually one of five Black males. When I graduated, I was only one of two Black males to walk across that stage. So those bonds were very important to me for my sanity and for me to be able to make it through.
Judge Mablean Ephriam: And let me iterate when I went to Pitzer, it was all girls. So, it was all girls and Scripps was all girls. So, for us to see boys, we had to go to Claremont Men’s and to Harvey Mudd, and Pomona.
Derric J. Johnson: Paris, I’m actually curious about how you currently define community being a student?
Paris Primm: Oh, definitely. I would say that, especially my class, like coming in, we definitely came in and we’re like, okay, where are the other Black people? And we really did every social event like we could during orientation, trying to find all the other Black people and I immediately got into the Black Student Union and made sure I got in on a leadership position. But gratefully like we, at Pitzer the issue, at least, of course, as the 5C’s, each college has their own Black student organization, we at Pitzer the issue. And gratefully, we also have our own space and we have our own room. So not only we have a safe haven like and ourselves would be like, Hey, what’s up, we have that community looking at each other, we also do have a safe space that we can go to, and it’s just for us, just Black students. And we also have funding secured as well to find events, go places and do things of that nature. So, I’m glad that we have our own resources for Pitzer students within as course as well. We can also walk over to the Office of Black Student Affairs and participate in all of their events and resources. So, I definitely have participated and have a great relationship with OBSA as well, but as the Black community in Claremont, do we see you know, Black Claremont but we say “Blaremont” [laughter]…And we’re very active. And all the events that we’ve done, especially since the Pitzer BSU, we have a relationship with Pomona BSU. So a lot of collaborative events, so it’s definitely great that there’s more of us, there’s more of us now, but there’ll be more of us in the future. But I definitely feel like BSU is my safe haven and all the other Black students around the Claremont Colleges, like all my safe haven I’m so grateful that will rip for this like, active and like we seek each other out. And we have fun, we have each other’s back, like through resources or opportunities to like things of that nature. Like we got each other. So yeah.
Judge Mablean Ephriam: So I have a question; how many Black students at the 5Cs? How many are there now?
Paris Primm: Of the total 5Cs I don’t know; definitely Pomona, they have the most, half my friends are from Pomona. But I know I Pitzer, if I can say, it averages 20 Black students per class. So I see 100 maybe all on campus at once, then just like approximate population, it could be maybe, I would say like a couple 100 maybe, it’s like all of us. So when we have, like my first year we threw a collaboration party with all those Black student organizations in Claremont, we were in the auditorium at CMC (I’m blanking on the name right now). But it was pretty packed with us. So that was great.
Judge Mablean Ephriam: Whoo, that’s a lot.
Germaine Jackson: I was going say, I’m happy to hear the numbers have grown. And when I started there my freshman year, I remember that first party. And I think everyone had said, You’re like looking for…? Where is everybody? And is there an everybody? You’re in the dark? And you’re like, Where are my people? Where’s my tribe? And then you realize that some people you may think are your tribe, they don’t want to be a part of your tribe. So between Pitzer and the other four colleges, I participated in athletics. So, a lot of my time was spent at the OBSA, but also participating in my sports, the intercollegiate sports with Pomona and Pitzer, gave you an opportunity to get to know people on another campus. Also, Pomona always had the latest dinner so, you could always check over there and they had better food than Pitzer. I don’t know what happened with our food, but Sunday was the best meal I felt like we had all week. But OBSA was definitely my lifeline in terms of coming from LA, I felt like a lot of the Black people came from a lot of places where they weren’t necessarily used to being around a lot of Black people. So they weren’t always looking for that connection. But coming from a big city where you feel like you are connected, and you’re looking for your people, OBSA was kind of that place where, when people were there, they were looking for the same thing. Being surrounded by adults that try to create that connection, we definitely would have our own things at different dorms, hanging out in living rooms, and I think when I was there, I’m dating myself, “Martin” had come out. So, we would all get together to watch “Martin” together and take over the living rooms, because (probably now you guys have your own TVs in your rooms), but you’d have to get there first to get the TV. So that was a cultural takeover sometimes. So, the more numbers you had, you could get to the TV, and we could all watch “Martin.” But we spent a lot of time, I think OBSA just created that sense of network and family as a whole. And I think a lot of us would encourage each other, like, come to our campus to have dinner or come to have lunch. And I think just that natural, the scheduling that you could take classes at different schools also allowed us to kind of see people that you wouldn’t always see or catch people that maybe weren’t going to the parties. The other thing, I think, just in general were some of those professors that were there. Dr. Agnes Jackson was a definite lifeline in terms of just being on campus, seeing her. I just remember the first class I had with her and how she’d call everyone by your first and last name, you felt like you were about to take over the world because you were Miss Jackson or Mr. Johnson, you’re like, Okay, I’m an adult now and I’m ready.
Derric J. Johnson: Whenever I heard Mr. Johnson, I was typically in trouble [with your dad?]. It was never Hey, Mr. Johnson. It was like Mr. Johnson! Exclamation point.
Germaine Jackson: But I think also Professor Calderon was especially a lifeline for me as well. And just being in classes where you felt like people wanted you to be there. And there was kind of this disruption of the majority, really being taught that you were intended to be there, and that the education that you were seeking, that you could find it there. Again, Professor Calderon was another person that he called everybody brothers and sisters in the class. So whether you are white, brown, however you identify, you are brother or sister, and that mixed people up. And I was like, all right, we in here, brother and sister. Yes. So I mean, I think those were places that I felt that I found my community. Those were places where I felt like in the midst of being the only, I was in the science department. So I don’t know… I was the only. And in even in my science department, Dr. Sadava was my advisor, and he was just a tremendous lifeline for me, I think. He was always encouraging me to not feel defeated, and not kind of subjecting myself to what was the typical, you got to get this score, or you’ve got to get… he was like, you can do it. Challenge yourself. If you got to retake a class, it’s okay. I remember when O Chem came and he was like, I failed O Chem too, it’ll be all right, just take it over. And so just being surrounded by people who believed in you, and taught you to believe in yourself, because college was something different.
Many classes, you’d go in those classes. And the professors would start off by saying, “I don’t give As.” You’ve come to college feeling like, I’m at Pitzer, you feel pretty smart, right? And you go to classes where your esteem can be shriveled really quickly. And interestingly enough, I remember going to other classes, not Pitzer classes, but other classes at other campuses where you think, oh, you see that professor of color, and you’re looking for that camaraderie, right? And it’s almost like they will call on everyone but you. They’re out to show everybody else that there is no favoritism to you. And I actually had a professor at Pomona, and I think we formally wrote him up, because he would never call on us. And the only time they would call on us was if it was something that had to do with urban issues. Like the spotlight was on us; “But what do you think?” Well, our hand was up five minutes ago for a different question.
So definitely, I think that community feeling, the feeling of empowerment, the feeling of knowing that there were different systems that we as a group were going to have to dismantle together and really having those meetings and powwows of that happened to you, but what are we going to do, and really working together to have plans to support each other. So I felt really good. I mean, outside of the people of color that were on campus that created that family feeling, I also felt like there were a lot of other people of color in the community that definitely wrapped their arms around us and allowed us to not be invisible.
Jai Phillips: I would be actually be remiss if I did not mention the professors that were also part of that extended community, Halford Fairchild would take us to dinner. Laura Harris, her office was always open and was of my top advisors and Dipa Basu, who would just hang and talk after class about any and everything. But I also wanted to reflect on something that Paris was worth mentioning about the Black Student Union. So, during my time at Pitzer, the Black Student Union was actually dormant; it had been dormant for several years. And a good friend of mine, was Class of ‘01, Daniel Smith, actually revived the Black Student Union. And so we had no space, we had no funding, everything that we had was because we brought it to the table. So, we revived things like college visits, where we went out to urban community high schools, Crenshaw, Gardena, and got Black students and brought them to campus to show them what campus life was like. Having a presence at social lunches, and snacky snacks, that was all something that wasn’t even thought of. We were trying to find our space and insert ourselves into community. And so I’m very happy, I was ecstatic, actually, when I saw that you guys have the physical, dedicated space, first of all. And now you’re telling me that there’s money and funding that comes along with that, that is beyond my wildest dreams. But then, on a personal note, that painting, that Sankofa that is in that office is something that my uncle painted and donated, and so it’s very awesome. Very happy to see that you all keep that.
Judge Mablean Ephriam: Yeah, it was very good to hear that the OBSA was a great resource, and then you knocked it down when you said no Black students used in during your days. Our class, the class of ’71, well, we are classes of ‘71 and ’72, we were very active in informing that OBSA that was us that insisted that we get the OBSA established. We selected Bert Hammond as the first director of the OBSA. I babysat his kids and all that other good stuff. So, I’m glad to hear that the OBSA is still there, is still a resource for everyone. But it was kind of disheartening to hear that the Black Student Union was gone during your years, Jai. But I’m glad it’s revived now on every campus. That’s really interesting. But I know that Pitzer, and by the time we left there, like I said it started in ‘68 when Martin Luther King died, things just took a turn. And so, the Black students came out and said, we got to change the way we do business here. And the College’s really got off into active recruitment of Black students and they did what you’re talking about, Jai. I was on the committee; it was a number of people. We went to campuses, not just in South Central LA, but we went all over the United States and to major urban cities and recruited Black students. I was one of those that traveled, John Payton is a lawyer in DC now. And it was really active recruitment. And that’s what it takes, because they’ll use the excuse that the kids aren’t applying. And just like Paris said, you’re right here in Inglewood and hadn’t heard of Pitzer College. Yet we got a lot of alumni here in LA County, from Pitzer College and Claremont and CMC.
So that means the alumni need to do something about that so that the students now know of the existence of those campuses, because that’s what we tried to endeavor to do so they wouldn’t have an excuse, “Kids aren’t applying.” And they won’t apply if they don’t know. And they don’t know if someone doesn’t tell you. So, it appears that the high school counselors are doing the same thing now that they did to us in the 60s and they’re not telling us about the small private colleges. They want us all to go to the state universities and the state colleges and they don’t even mention the small private colleges right here in California, right here in LA County. It’s a lot of them. And so I think that’s one of the things maybe the Alumni Association and OBSA needs to make sure that they know, the students know, that those campuses exist and there’s active recruitment. Because that’s what they began, that’s why it started to grow. There was money to recruit so we could stop that excuse, we don’t want to give it back to them.
Jai Phillips: I’m sorry. I was I was asking Paris if PASA [Pan-African Student Association] is still active.
Paris Primm: Yes. Oh my goodness, yes. Love the Pan-African Student Association, that is a 5C club and definitely they [unintelligible] in my opinion, the best part about the 5C’s Calypso last semester, so they’re definitely still active with amazing events like of course, even virtually, we’ll be able to talk about that later like how we keep our community virtually. The trivia nights and like all that good stuff. The Pan-African Student Association is still active and they do host the Sankofa festival. I didn’t get to go my first year because it conflicted with Family Weekend here, so I didn’t get to go. But the whole festival is dressing in African garb and film screenings and things of that nature. So yes, still active.
Derric J. Johnson: I’m transitioning to the next question, I wanted to go a little bit deeper and see and ask, can you recall a time (and this is open for the group), where you may have experienced an act of racialism, of bias and/or discrimination while you were a student on campus?
Judge Mablean Ephriam: I definitely did because again, ‘60s and I grew up in Los Angeles, but I came from a southern family, Mississippi, migrated here in ‘55 and the only act of racism I had ever experienced was when I went back to Mississippi to visit family during the summer. But in California, I had never actively experienced racism. My mother worked as a nurse and her attitude and religious and a Christian was always you love everybody, you treat everybody right. You didn’t talk about races, etc. She talked about segregation and discrimination and made us aware of our history and slavery and that, but she didn’t talk about racism and hatred and we didn’t hear those kind of words. I get to Pitzer College. The rule is, you have to have your first year, you cannot select, the rule was, you cannot room with anyone that you know, that part of the college experience is getting to know people that you don’t know, and meeting new and different cultures because after all, this a four-year university liberal arts, all of that. So that was their speech to us, because my best friend from high school and I chose to go to college together so that we could be roommates. And we planned to go to law school after that, so we had a whole other plan. No, you guys cannot be roommates, we don’t allow that. So I get a roommate; it’s supposed to be out the box, unknown. Get a white roommate from Oregon. I’m in Mead, the first new dorm, Mead over at Pitzer. Parents Weekend. My roommate and I are getting along fine, Parents Weekend came. Her father, who was rich and this is what I didn’t understand, the power of the dollar and how donors affect and impact private schools more so than the state schools. Racism still exists. But her father came to our room and saw that she had a Black roommate. He went to the dean and said that weekend, if you don’t get my daughter out of that room with that nigga, and he used those words, I will withdraw my donation to this campus and I will take my daughter out of school. I didn’t know anything about private donations to campus. I didn’t even know anything about how that works.
So my roommate is a little aloof come Monday. And I was like, something’s happened. Dean called me into the office and had a conversation and said, I hate to have this conversation with you, but I have to. And she told me what the father had said. And she said, so what do you think about that? I said, what do you mean, what do I think? So she says, Well, now would you like to run with Lisi? Alicia Qualls? That was my classmate from college, I mean from high school. I said, Nope, she’s over at Holden, she’s fine. I’m at Mead, I’m fine. I’m not moving because I’m in the new dorm. I got the suite, right? I said, no, I’m not moving. I said, I thought you said we couldn’t do that and that was the rule. That’s when I learned rules are made to be broken and will be broken all the time, depending on the dollar. Dollars make rules change and people change rules, I had no understanding of that.
They moved her out. And I said to them, don’t move anybody else in. Now, here’s my position. I don’t want to room with a white person, a Black person, or nobody, I don’t want a roommate. So don’t move anybody else in. So, she didn’t move anybody else in and I was the only student on campus didn’t have, only Black student who didn’t have a roommate, so you know what my room became, the hangout. Because we also have that living room area in the middle, so my room became the hangout room. When talk about controlling the TV, we controlled the whole narrative because we hung out and the other two students in the second room, of course, they left because it was too many of us over there on the weekends and hanging out. So that was my first experience.
But as a result of that, I got really angry, and I became a racist. I’m serious. I decided, I don’t like white people. I don’t want to be bothered with them, you can’t trust them. They’re not honest, they lie to you. And I never had that feeling before. And I mean, it lasted for years. It lasted for years, I would not deal with other people. I was so hurt behind that. And I insisted, that’s what I insisted on and we started the OBSA. And then I was like, no, we need a student representative on the Board of Trustees. And we need student representatives sitting at these tables when you are making these rules about the campus. And when you’re talking about recruitment, this and that, so they opened it up to a student representative. I was the first student representative on the Board of Trustees at Pitzer, I learned how to drink coffee and smoke cigarettes doing that. Because that’s all I learned; oh boy, people sit at board meetings and all they do is smoke cigarettes and drink coffee. I was like, is this what you do when you get degrees, you get these titles and positions? I started smoking cigarettes trying to keep up …this is so interesting. But yeah, that was my first experience with racism. Thereafter, I must say the student personally, even that student, my classmate, if she was racist, she was not overtly, and I had not even felt that way. And I didn’t feel that, get that feeling from other students on campus. It was really a quote, “liberal campus” to me, initially. But after that, I started paying attention, and we all started to pay attention. And we got these different vibes from different students and it just was a whole different attitude as far as I was concerned. And maybe 20 years later, I realized you can’t act like that. But I became one of those persons that I can’t stand, I don’t want to be around, they get on my nerves. And I just work with them because you have to, but I didn’t make them my friend ever. For years. Yeah, that was a bad experience for me.
Jai Phillips: I would definitely echo the thought about it as being this very liberal campus. And so my experience is mixed because I felt like Pitzer was more of a bubble than other campuses. When I would talk to friends who were having experiences on other campuses, I couldn’t relate because Pitzer was so liberal. But we did have some little things, some little microaggressions that would take place. And it wasn’t until I got older, until I recognized what these microaggressions actually were, and I was like, Oh! I’m just trying to collect my thought because I was like, which example? Which one? So, one of the big ones was there’s a whole group of hippies, that’s very Pitzer, folks that refer to themselves as nappies.
And they were very earthy, unkempt and would refer to themselves as nappies. And so, I just remember friends, and I asked them, what is what is this group about and why do they feel like that’s a representation that they want to have at this campus? I think the biggest thing during my time, though, was the shooting of Irvin Landrum because that shook up the entire campus, all 5C’s. [What?] Irvin Landrum. Young man, Black young man, driving through Claremont, was killed by the police. [Oh, wow.] And so we’re talking about, I can’t remember the year, I think it may have been ’99, 2000. And so you also saw some of the dynamics there with who wanted to take center stage and speak. There was a lot of white students, because they’re very activist, but there was, people were taking up a lot of space in places and spaces; they should have been trying to fall back and listen more. So, there were just those moments where I felt like marginalized, very marginalized voice. It didn’t always feel that way in bodies because I had my core network 9someone’s letting me know, it was 1999). But in those moments when you have large bodies of folks who are taking up a lot of space, and who are minimizing your voice, then that’s when I felt very “other.”
Germaine Jackson: Yeah, I think I want to echo what you said, Jai. My four years at Pitzer, there was a lot going on with Rodney King, the uprisings after that, kind of people’s perceptions of who they thought you were in comparison to what they were seeing on TV. Being a… it was myself and two other people, the year I came in, they were from LA, and kind of the perception of LA, it’s like LA TV. And that they think that that’s your whole life, that your family are gang members or they sell drugs, or that every time you go home, you’re ducking and dodging bullets, or that you don’t have a safe home like they might have. And during the Rodney King, that was a long week of lots of things going on, not only in LA, but Pomona and our surrounding areas. And it was a lot, that perception, like you said, taking up space of everybody’s got a voice and not really thinking how that impacts people that look like the people you’re looking at on TV. Or even the perception that like, when people would come back from LA, students would say, “Were you part of the looters? Watching the news, I wasn’t sure.” So, kind of debunking the perception of Black people on TV versus the reality of that some of those are characters, not real people.
Also, just I think, in general, when we talk about racism on campus, there were endless episodes with the campus police. And the Claremont police, we used to call it an escort to the grocery store. Because if you were riding your bike and/or driving to the grocery store, and you were Black, you would always have an escort. So, you always know you get there safely, because Claremont police would follow you. And having your ID, your school ID, wherever you were, you could be walking through the neighborhood, and the police would pull you over. And so, after a while, we weren’t moved by just showing your ID, I’m a student, looking like a student with your backpack on or on your bike with your little basket trying to get whatever your little stuff from the grocery store down the street. Campus police also was interesting, like who they would stop at night, you’re coming from the library. And I know, our Black male students had very different experiences than the Black females, I think, because after a while, we started to kind of befriend campus police. We would know some people, but those experiences were very different.
If I could talk about kind of just an institutional sense of racism, my senior year, there was a lot going on. Judge Mablean, when you talk about the hiring of Black professors, or the tenure of just faculty of color, tenure was really what we were thinking, right? There was a lot of focus on affirmative action, but there was a lot of focus across the nation and just looking at who we were hiring and who we were keeping. And during that time, I always laugh now, Jai, as I was listening to you, as you reflect on these seats that they give young people and you don’t even know how much power you have at that time. So we were on these committees, right? We all joined them like, oh, the hiring committee, you can listen to who the applicant is. And so, we learned all this information about who was interviewing for positions, and then our professors, some of who had been there are 15, 20 years also applying for positions. And you’re considering someone who doesn’t have the experience, and just so happens to be white, of course. And not only you considering hiring them, but you’re considering to give them tenure.
So as we’ve learned more about this, and again, we learned about it because we had a seat at the table. We talked about, well, what we want to do? And then the year 1993, we call the takeover, myself, Derric, correct me if I’m wrong, because you know, it’s all… some of the memory is clear, some of it isn’t. I want to say it was a group of 10 of us, but it could have been maybe 12 to 15. We took over the building at Pomona and decided that we were going to make a statement about their hiring practices. Specifically, there was an African American professor who was at Scripps, was applying for a position at Pomona and also applying for tenure, and was denied.
Jai Phillips: Sue Houchins.
Germaine Jackson: Yes, Sue Houchins who was my mother’s professor, that’s how long she had been in there, like 20-plus years, [unintelligible] tenure, I think it should have been heard and not some man that had five- or seven years-worth of experience. But it was really an alignment issue and that probably would have been more honest than to say she just wasn’t the right fit. We made a decision as a student body knowing that transference of the things you learn and now saying, “I know something, now I want to do something,” and knowing that we have the power of numbers, and like you said, that power of numbers equaling money that they didn’t want to lose, and also the identity of being the Claremont Colleges. And so, knowing all those things, we made a decision that we were going to make a statement, and our statement was going to be public, because we knew that that public statement might change things. And we decided to take over the building again, they, people have work study positions, and people climbed in through trees, and not a lot of buildings, all I want you to know. And we decided…
Judge Mablean Ephriam: You repeated our things of the 60s.
Germaine Jackson: And I will tell you that it was a very powerful moment and I think a moment that they didn’t anticipate, which is that their students who they felt like they had under control, were no longer controllable. And that everything that we had been learning in this liberal arts education, [Judge Mablean: The slaves had revolted.] That’s right. And not only revolted, revolted during admissions time, so this was time when business was most critical, and they couldn’t get in the building.
Derric J. Johnson: It was strategic. It was strategic in terms of when they were actually disseminating the financial aid checks and the start of the semester. And there’s more to that story I wanted, we have like till 6:30 so I want to move on the conversation. But anybody who’s interested in more kind of context related to the story that Germaine is speaking about, the incident was Alexander Hall, that was a building that was actually taken over at Pomona related to trying to uplift both diversity, financial aid, tenured professorship, and the extension of more inclusion as it relates to some of our brothers and sisters from the Asian American community who actually didn’t have a quote, unquote, an OBSA or any place to actually congregate as a group of students. But more nuanced, and a lot more context but thank you, Germaine for that relevancy to that storyline. Sometimes you forget about that history.
I’m going to move us forward a little bit, Paris. I’m going to actually jump to you and ask you a question as a current Pitzer student. Again, I’m both excited to see you here but I’m also struck that many of the same struggles of inequity and negated sense of belonging persists for our current students of color. Last year, the Black Students Union released an address that was entitled “How Pitzer can support the success of their Black students.” In the release, it referenced that these supportive measures were requested many years prior and still saw no appeal or responsive audience. In listening to these lived experiences of others, are there barriers that still resonate from your vantage point related to your classmates and peers now?
Paris Primm: [unintelligible] You know, me personally, I was like, Oh my God, there’s only nineteen Black students in my class. I was appalled by that. But now I’m now learning about your experience. Oh, this is a good number. So, it’s still besides saying things are okay, there aren’t enough of us here. Why is that happening? So I’m like, okay, I’m going to start working in Admissions, find out what was going on, like behind the scenes, but it’s definitely the Black student experience at Pitzer is an interesting one. And at least we do have the 5C community to help us out as well. But I’d say that is also a very individual experience as well. I came in [unintelligible] I want to get involved in the issue immediately, at least now. I’m also a double major with Africana Studies and organizational studies so l I made sure that I tried to have mostly Black professors and my peers in my class, in my classes were more Black students as well. But then, is that the same for our students in STEM? No, no, it’s not. So that’s why we have to go in and support each other, just kind of go on to support each other but it’s the most important thing that I say that we do really good with our community in trying to recruit people like me.
I’ve been in diversity in the Office of Admission for two years, so I get to see the diverse population students here [unintelligible] before the pandemic hit. So, we have to do everything else virtually. But bring them on campus here, we’ll fly you out, you get to experience, get the Pitzer experience here, you could talk to a professor of color, doing all those things. So, it’s still I continue all those things. But when the students do choose Pitzer, especially we did it really aggressively with the Class of 2024. We found them on Instagram and were like, okay, here, please, come to our meeting, we’re welcoming you to the issue immediately even before we get to campus, so we have a star like that cohort, you can vote virtually. And literally the same thing with the Class of 2025. It’s just still keeping that same community going. So, I would say that’s the most important thing right now. But I’m grateful for social media now that we that we can get connected with each other as current students. So that’s why I thought piece for now. But definitely I’m so grateful to learn so much about your experience like as compared to mine.
Derric J. Johnson: Jai, your work at the California Community Foundation and youth development, particularly supporting the advancement of young boys’ mental color is not only invaluable, but critical and incredibly timely, as it speaks to the specific needs within our country. Going back again to your Pitzer days as a student, what kind of support do you wish you had while navigating your own pathway into adulthood? Did you have any? I know you mentioned Hal Fairchild but were there any other mentors like guides on or around campus to support you while you were there?
Jai Phillips: Uh, honestly, no; my friend networks. One of the things I often talk about with my young men is this understanding of what it really means to get in a higher institution of learning. If you really look at the history of higher institutions of learning, they were not built for others, they were built for wealthy white men to succeed and thrive in society. So not only are you coming into an infrastructure
[Interjection by Judge Mablean: Wealthy white women to find those wealthy white men to marry…]
And so not only are you coming into an institution of higher learning that is not designed for you, so you’re competing in that, you’re trying to navigate that space, but now I also have to shoulder that and then compete with you academically in order to survive. And so that conversation was never had with me. So that was one thing. But even deeper, like just the concept of college, I thought going to a private college, I had access to all these things like books, I didn’t even understood I needed to buy books. That’s how little I knew of what college experience would be like back then. And so, what I really talk with my young men about now is understanding what the true needs are around being successful. So it’s one thing to get into college; it’s a whole other thing to persist through college, because you’re navigating several different challenges, academics, home life, and then, so the focus that I provide, the programming is really focused on wraparound services, making sure that they have mentors, make sure that they have additional funds beyond scholarships, because, and that’s a whole other conversation that we can have about scholarships and how you know, you’re often robbing Peter to pay Paul because with most colleges, you can’t even let them know you have a scholarship because all they do is take your money and reduce what they were going to give you enhanced so you’re still working at a deficit.
Judge Mablean Ephriam: Yeah, that’s what I’ve found out in my scholarship program whenever I give a scholarship. So now, I found a way around that. But yeah, but at the same time, I have a hard time.
Jai Phillips: We can talk more about that offline.
Judge Mablean Ephriam: But the other problem I had when I work around it, and sometimes I had two or three that didn’t go, so then it’s like, Damn, now you going to take my money and not go. But I found out they take the money and I was like, really? Okay, we got to figure that out.
Jai Phillips: Yeah, let’s talk about it. So, understanding the social-emotional things, the things that young people shoulder when they’re coming into these classrooms, the things that we have to check at the door before we could even meaningfully engage in a lesson, those are the things that I talk about most with my young people, especially having come from adverse backgrounds.
Derric J. Johnson: Germaine, you’ve worked in both the private and public education field for over 25 years focusing on curriculum development, culturally competent, relevant student support and teachings. From your perch, can you share how these experiences show themselves in the field overall from an equity and justice framework? How to school administrators and faculty prioritize the dismantling of white supremacy Eurocentrism and elitism within private educational systems?
Germaine Jackson: So, I’m in my role, primarily as an administrator, we have to remain focused on a couple things that Jai just mentioned, which is that the education system was not intended for everyone. And so many of our traditions and how we run schools have really been based on who that was intended to serve, typically white men. And so, there are lots of systems that are already in place that we have to check. That idea of whiteness and systems that we’re measuring, whether those are customs and culture, that we’re measuring against a standard that is either spoken or not spoken. And so, my work with schools is really beginning there with often what we call our traditions, and being able to look at who are those traditions actually serving. And oftentimes, the legacy of those traditions aren’t serving the population that most of our public institutions are looking to serve.
Also creating a critical lens, a lot of work that our schools have to do looking at the idea of radical teaching, and really creating that lens where we’re looking at the material, that we’re resources, that we’re using the materials that we’re using to teach students by exposing the inequities, by looking at different cultures. So much focus lately has been on curriculum, and so much focus on what books are we reading? Or what resources are we using, and less conversation on actual instructional practices and strategies, which are much harder to govern as a school, but looking at how your teachers approach the things that they’re teaching. What are the different ways that they’re including culture or allowing student voices to be centered to the kind of conversations that are being had? I like the idea that Dr. Bettina Love talks about, the role of allies as this idea of the difference between an ally and a co-conspirator. And a co-conspirator is really someone that acknowledges that there’s a system in place, and is ready to dismantle it. And so, for many of our educational institutions, we know when you look at most schools, the percentage of white people that are teachers and administrators, or have a role in that system, we now have to look at how we can help guide them to use their privilege to disrupt the system and to acknowledge it. And those systems not only do we see them in terms of our teaching practices, but also in our discipline, and how we look at students, how we look at their families, how we hope to engage them. Also, I’m looking at the idea of hiring. Who are we looking for when we hire? I mean, we talked about that earlier and just in terms of professors, and then our K-8 and K-12 systems, are we valuing solely a resume? Are we looking for people who actually care about children, that care about the connections, that have hard working resilient tendencies, that are prepared that there’s not this formula for perfection that you’re going to have to work and there’s nuance in different cultures and different perspectives that students and families bring?
I had the pleasure of working at a school that I felt exhibited a lot of the excellence that most schools should have, traditions that allow families and students to have a voice and how things, how those traditions are practiced. Teachers are trained to incorporate culture, and art and innovation, and students’ talents into the way a curriculum is introduced. The bar of excellence; so often when we look at what we think is excellent, we’re comparing ourselves to ourselves, looking at what is actually excellent, which is often outside of ourselves. So often, we think we’re doing a good job but in comparison to what? And the schools that I’ve seen that have been very successful, have the ones that say, we realize California isn’t the best school system. So, we want to compare ourselves to school systems that have been successful, but also that that measurement of success isn’t just quantitative. So, looking at test scores, but also qualitative and looking at the experience students are having. So being able to assess and reflect on what are we doing, how are we doing, and having a perspective of service, and that we’re providing a service, and we’re only considering ourselves good if the people we serve say, that is the job well done.
Derric J. Johnson: Thank you for that. And we’re coming towards the end of our time together, we have a 6:30 close. So I want to go to the last question for all of you before making closing remarks. And that question is, with everything that we’ve discussed tonight, where do we go from here, not just as an institution like Pitzer College as it relates to belonging and inclusion, diversity, cultural competency? But how do we create these actionable next steps, so that the next generation of students are not experiencing the same things that we experienced while we were actually on campus? And I’ll start this off with the Judge and make our way around the room before the final statements.
Judge Mablean Ephriam: Well, I think unfortunately, the next generation will experience some of the same things we’ve experienced because we’re still dealing with institutional racism in America, and the college campuses are a part of that institutional racism. But we can make some inroads into it in doing what this parent says that what the students are doing now, they’re still working together, you have all of the BSUs on every campus. I think we have to stay in the forefront, not only just challenging the administration, in terms of the number of African American professors, or diverse professors, and not just all lilywhite, we have to challenge them to recruit and get more students into the campuses. We cannot be satisfied with the numbers even though they look larger 100, 200. That’s not big enough in comparison. So, we have to set for some real goals to set instead of saying we want 100 students, maybe you want 500 students at Pitzer, 500 students of color at Pitzer in the next five years, and see how you can get that and challenge them specifically to do those kinds of things. We have to keep talking about the level of our professors and the fact that we still need tenured professors and we have to keep fighting for it and sitting at the table and sitting down if necessary, and petitioning if necessary, and sit ins if necessary, or whatever way we have to do it to get the message over, to help them understand that what we want is for our campus, the Pitzer campus, to be open, and to look like America, to be inclusive of any and all persons so that it’s not just whites and not just those who can afford it. Importantly, also, I think for all of us as alumni, we have to do our part as well. And all of us alumni who are not attending alumni events, who are not participating, at least we can donate.
And I think we really need to start a serious campaign of donating from the Black alumni back to the college. I think we should support the colleges that supported us, and that provided an education for us and to provide for the next generation. The cost of college is getting greater and greater and greater. And we just cannot depend upon the school itself to provide the scholarships. We too have to give some money back to those campuses for the benefit of the students. And of course, our scholarships can be specifically earmarked for Black students. There’s nothing wrong with that. And I think we should consider doing that and reaching out to our Black alumni who, perhaps to us, who don’t go to the campus, but we can participate in a way in terms of our donating, and activities. We need that alumni newsletter, that there was one at one time, and we were talking about what each of us were doing. And we were trying to connect with each other, to know, to support each other’s activities, to support the foundation, to support my foundation, to support the work you’re doing. And we can all be a part of that. And then we have to be ambassadors for our children, for our grandchildren, for our neighbors’ children, and talk about the campuses and let them know. There are people in our back doors who don’t know that those campuses exist. And then we can get them, we can make sure the students get there, because we can get the information out. And we have to be the conduit to help get students there and not just depend upon the administration’s Admissions office to recruit students.
Derric J. Johnson: Thank you, Judge. We’re going to go with Jai and then we’re going to close with Paris before ending the session.
Jai Phillips: I’m going to be brief because I really do want to hear from Paris, because I echo a lot of what Judge Ephriam is saying, that money is power. And so we need to begin, build our wealth and our power within this institution if we really want to see change as alumni of Pitzer College and the 5Cs. I’m really inspired by the work that Paris and her classmates have done, because I think that in order, I can answer this question on a macro level. But we’re talking about Pitzer, and we’re talking about Pitzer now. And so my Pitzer of ‘02 is not the Pitzer that Paris is now working through, I’m already floored that there’s over 100 Black people.
Judge Mablean Ephriam: Yeah, me too. So that’s exciting.
Jai Phillips: So, I would actually lean, Paris more so, to have a current day understanding of what the challenges are. And I would like to put our collective voices behind what it is that she and her classmates believe is the pathway forward.
Derric J. Johnson: So, let’s make that transition. Paris, I wanted to end this with you because it essentially was your classmates, your advocacy, and the pitch and push, to Pitzer related to the needs of Black students on campus that weren’t being addressed. And so, I would love to hear maybe three to four of your top recommendations from what you’ve elevated in terms of the needs of the Black community on campus now.
Paris Primm: I definitely agree with both of you that money is a very, very big thing. It’s an issue at Pitzer, things like most of the initiatives that we want to put forth with recruitment and admitting students, financial aid is a big thing. We can get them admitted, of course they’re great, it would be great to visit everything but then they can’t afford it. And so that’s one thing, money is definitely very important even coming in as a first year. I am super grateful for this panel right now. It’s just to be connected with you all, Black with you, Black [unintelligible], I’ve been wanting that like forever based on there’s only so much that I could do, only so much that we can do as students. We want to be connected with our alumni, too, and have this type of support for our future initiatives. So, you definitely want that alumni connection to be there but of course I only have one more year at Pitzer. As I go into my senior year, it’s the same thing like yes, I was a very active student, I [unintelligible] this campus and very much, pretty much everything I do is for Black students. And that won’t change when I graduate. [I’ve already been the people that I started with the VPS? Unintelligible]. And everything that I’m like, in conversation, like I spent at least a conversation with you as an alum, I will come on and be like, hey, so what are the current things that you’re doing for Black students? It’s the same thing. And as long as I’m not the only person doing it, there’s the whole group. It was like that power in numbers, that’s definitely going to be an important piece.
And I think that Clinton [unintelligible] was definitely like when we if we plan on being in person and then that would definitely be great as well to establish and to keep that connection and to stay connected with Pitzer. And with Pitzer BSU like as a whole, no more in future years, we don’t want any dormancy, want to keep it very active, alive and well. Keep recruiting prospective students like that, that has a very strong impact and then even as good as current students are like matriculate, which matriculating us and then staying an active alum. So I definitely think that all of those are very, very important. So I’m just so excited right now.
Derric J. Johnson: Why, you know, again, I appreciate you, I appreciate everyone actually participating in this conversation. Hopefully, this is just the start of a series of things that we can start collectively doing as a community, both current and alumni, I want to make myself completely available. And I’m sure the folks here are also just as invested in trying to provide any support, Paris, that you may need, the school may need in order to advance this agenda. And that pretty much is kind of the conclusion of our conversation, because we are all people of color here, Black folks, I’m going to end this with a solo clap, as opposed to just a regular clap. And again, I want to thank all of you who participated in this conversation. And also, a special shout out to Pitzer College President Melvin L. Oliver, for prioritizing not only these conversations through Pitzer’s Racial Justice Initiative and the True Equity series, but also seeing it as a priority of the school and wanting to advance this work. Also, a special thank you for our community in the live audience for joining us this evening. As a community we look forward to creating actionable next steps and build an important bridge between current students and alumni. I’m soliciting everybody here in your partnership with those who are in attendance as both thought leaders and as advocates to help advance this agenda. So again, thank you in advance for the consideration and support, continued success and good health. Have a great evening, everyone. Thank you.
[Continued chit chat and casual conversation]
Jai Phillips: Thank you, Derric.
Judge Mablean Ephriam: I have to use the platform to say my current show is Justice with Judge Mablean. Keep watching it, I can donate.
Germaine Jackson: And we will all join the Pitzer BSU Instagram. Thank you, Paris.
Paris Primm: Yes definitely. Shameless for myself. Are there is there any rising seniors in the room, vote for senior class president.
Oh, yes, let me see if I mean, I need definitely need to get contact information like for sure. Yeah. Yeah, this is definitely so awesome.
Yes. Please, Brandon. Feel free. Derric, feel free to share my content.
You may share my this one. Okay, have a good evening.