After nine days of a student takeover, the Mordecai Wyatt Johnson Administration Building (A building) will reopen for normal function. It was announced at a press conference this afternoon that President Wayne A.I Frederick and the Board of Trustees signed off on eight of the nine demands presented by the student group HU Resist (replay the live stream of the press conference here).
The lingering question in the next few months– what will change at Howard? Will students’ demands actually be met or will they be left to the wind?
I can tell you something already has changed at the university since the students moved into the A building: In just over a week HU Resist and supporters of this movement have built up a community that represents “the Howard that was sold to us.”
I came to Howard eight months ago to live out the dream Howard sold me. I wanted to join the family of Bison that protected and accepted each other while having a beautiful, black experience. In the last few months, I questioned my choice to come to Howard because of feeling excluded from the “family” aspect I heard so much about. Nine days ago everything changed for me. I went out of my element and went out on my own to fight for something I believed in. There, I met people who inspired me to believe in change and believe I was important enough to make a difference. I became a Bison.
A lot of my transformation came from the environment inside the A building. The student protesters weren’t just sitting around all day turning away staff members. Within the second day they were holding poetry slams, open mics, showing films, leading yoga classes, painting and dancing. They never neglected the important things though, students held worship services, dealt with their mental health and worked with graduate student tutors as well. Most importantly, they occupied the space while celebrating what it means to be black and proud. There was never a dull moment in the building and these activities made it easy to connect with classmates I had never even seen before.
The building was also a safe space for minority groups on campus. All LGBTQ students, gender identities and races were openly embraced and for a lot of students, it may have been the first time they were comfortable being themselves in front of over 300 people. The rules set in place by the community were geared to protect everyone from hate and if anyone dared to disrupt the peace they’d have to hate from outside of the club.
The A building sit-in of 2018 has made a difference in the lives of students by giving them the college experience they dreamed of. Bison all around should celebrate students’ courage for making it through to the end.