Harvard Limits Black Expression


Even during the month of February which is widely recognized as Black History Month, Black people find their efforts undermined by the cruel and illogical actions of campus institutions and figureheads. During the 28 days of February, Black people attempt to continue to celebrate the richness and diversity of our great cultural tradition. Students who independently engage in this process are to be applauded--students such as Richard Pengelly and Keith Levy. These two students initiated and organized a concert that was intended to showcase the talents of rappers and deejays from Cambridge to Dorchester.

By bringing some of the most gifted and distinguished individuals of the Black community to Harvard's campus, the event promised to be a first of its kind for many students. Instead, what resulted was a scene most reminiscent of the 1960's: a peaceful crowd of Black people unified for a common purpose tormented and angered by intrusive reporters and excessive campus police presence. Most of the crowd channeled that anger by simply leaving to escape the unwarranted antagonism while others sought more eagerly to get inside the concert.

Crimson reporters failed to detail the events which took place inside. The concert itself was excellent--talented men and women on stage showcasing skills and others watching with pride and admiration. Unfortunately, the concert was enjoyed only by a few as Harvard police determined that the Adams House dining hall was full beyond capacity. The 150 to 200 people that were in Adams Friday night does not compare to an estimated 700 people who attended last year's prefrosh dance or an estimated 700 people who attended a Masquerade party this past Halloween. One must question why the Harvard police force created new standards and rules for itself on Friday.

One must also question the validity of Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III's opinion that race had nothing to do with the matter (note that Epps was not in attendance). Police officers swarmed the area of Adams House with hands on their weapons, delivered intense and frightening gazes and cursed at Black concert-goers without just cause. One must question the threatening and rude actions of the police because it was neither necessary nor warranted. Once again, their actions highlight the need for campus administrators to take action and discover means of instituting greater cultural sensitivity and respect for minorities among its ranks.

Indeed this level of insensitivity also manifests in the Crimson itself--although this is not a new issue. The Crimson irresponsibly printed a quote that obviously demonstrated the anger of a young man upset when he was turned away at the door. This young man who the Crimson made no attempt to identify used language that was reprinted on the Crimson pages out of context. His words are attached to no face, or meaning. The Crimson limits the articulation of those Black concert-goers who were turned away to this brief statement while providing no explanation as to why he used such fierce and impassioned language.

And so Black History month ends and Harvard again denies it Black population the right to independently define culture and the freedom to independently develop means of celebration. Instead, we are backed into a corner, where we are plagued by negative perceptions and stereotypes, where we are antagonized physically and mentally by the double standards of police officers, where we are dehumanized by the inaccuracies of news reporters and where our efforts to pronounce our culture, history and identity are ultimately undermined. Kristen Clarke '97   President, Black Students   Association   Bredy Pierre-Louis '95