“Real pain, real action!” The angry chant echoed across Quarry Plaza as students spilled out of their early afternoon classes. The protest held Wednesday afternoon came in response to racially themed parties held at UCs San Diego and Santa Barbara, and in response to the state of diversity at UC Santa Cruz.
Out of the 15,259 undergraduate students enrolled at UCSC in fall 2009, only 413 were African-American.
“This is an emergency,” said Sara Haile, a third-year community studies major passing out fliers. “This hatred has existed for so long, we have to stop it now before it gets out of control.”
Less than two weeks ago, in the midst of Black History Month, members of the Phi Kappa Alpha fraternity at UCSD were involved with planning a “Compton Cookout” themed party. The UCSD Student-Run Television Program (SR-TV) broadcasted statements supporting the party. When students responded in protest of the racism, SR-TV aired racial slurs.
Earlier this month a group of UCSB students hosted a “Gangsta Party.” Hosts distributed fliers depicting a monkey dressed in baggy jeans and a do-rag and explained that women at the party would be dubbed with “ghetto” names.
In response to these events, the protesters at UCSC expressed solidarity with those at other UC campuses who are taking action against the events. The focus of the protest is how these events relate back to UC Santa Cruz.
“We’re trying to express that it is not just a hostile environment for UCSD students, it’s for us too,” said Samantha Baker, donning one of the red, black and green bracelets that were being handed out to participants in the protest. “We want to stand in solidarity with UCSD students and make it known that things like this are happening on our campus.”
Baker, along with other participants, engaged in a day of silence on Tuesday and is wearing black this week in solidarity.
After passionate chanting at Quarry Plaza, the protest moved to Kerr Hall where Tiffany Loftin, internal vice chair of the Student Union Assembly, led more chanting and yelled further explanation through a loudspeaker.
“This is really, really painful,” Loftin said. “It’s hard to be black on campus.”
She pointed to examples of times she has been racially offended on campus, such as certain articles in UCSC’s student publication The Fish Rap Live!
“They claim to be a parody, a comedy. They have shown Jennifer Hudson in an Oakes sweater on the front cover,” Loftin said. “Most people think that Oakes College has the highest number of black people, but really Kresge does.”
She continued to describe Fish Rap’s depiction of the mishmash of items found in Obama’s garden: swaggafruit, watermelon, rap music, collard greens, and meth. The crowd responded to this depiction with angry hisses.
Loftin also pointed to two theater arts classes that have been cut, along with many others, due to budget cuts: “African-American Dance” and “Intro to African American Theater.” Loftin led the crowd in chanting: “UC Regents, I see racists!”
At Kerr Hall, administrators came out to answer questions. The team of protesters headed back to Quarry Plaza and had a debriefing in the conference room, ending their long day of protest at 5 p.m.
Brittni Newman walked by the protest and was surprised by the events that took place on the other UC campuses.
“I was surprised [by] the story because we all go to school together and share a space,” she said. “The ignorance of the people who threw the party reflects poorly upon the entire UC.”