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University of South Florida students commemorate Black History Month

By staff

Tampa students commemorate Black History Month.

Tampa, FL – Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) at the University of South Florida (USF) held a lecture and then a protest as part of Black History Month.

On Feb. 23, Elizabeth Kramer with Tampa SDS spoke on the ways in which African Americans, Chicanos and Native Americans are nationally oppressed in the U.S. She explained how the murders of African American people by police officers and the anti-immigrant laws, such as Arizona’s SB 1070 that legalized racial profiling, are part of national oppression. She also explained that fight to eliminate institutional racism against African Americans and Chicanos should include promoting national self-determination in the South and Southwest.

Danya Zituni with SDS said, “Whether it is racist admissions tests, or discriminatory policies that negatively impact Black and Latino students on campus, national oppression is with us constantly.”

The students showed a film, The Black Power Mixtape, a historical account of the Black Panther Party and their fight against national oppression in the 1960s.

Then on Feb. 25, 15 students gathered to demand affirmative action for African American and Latino students. The students called on the University of South Florida administration to take action on the falling rates of enrollment for African American students.

Students held large banners and chanted and gave speeches in support of affirmative action. SDS also demanded the reinstatement of African American studies programs and faculty who were cut in the past few years. The call for affirmative action is an initiative by Students for a Democratic Society nationally, in response to the case brought to the Supreme Court by Abagail Fisher.

Fisher claims she was denied acceptance to a Texas University because she is white. Fisher’s case represents another attack on affirmative action. In 1978, the Supreme Court case Bakke vs. University of California upheld the use of affirmative action but ended the use of quota systems for admissions of African American and Latino students.

Sam Beutler of SDS added, “Since Jeb Bush repealed affirmative action in Florida with the passing of the ‘One Florida’ plan, admission of Black and Latino students has fallen. The policy that was supposed to increase diversity has resulted in more exclusionary admissions. Now at other state universities, the percentage of first year Black students is just 6% or 7%. SDS is demanding affirmative action because it is one way to address the legacy of racism and oppression carried out by the U.S. government.”

Another SDS member, Sarah Owusu-Tweneboah said, “The only people who are benefiting from the ‘One Florida’ plan is the administration and we already know the administration doesn’t care about us, especially when we have a USF building named after a racist, sexist, homophobe. We are not making it about race, history already has. We as students need to defend affirmative action! Affirmative action is necessary until systematic inequity and structural racism stop playing a role in our society.”

Students ended the rally by chanting “Black Power!” and promised to continue struggling against the USF administration – the body that continues to perpetuate the legacy of national oppression with the use of racist administration policies and racist tests.

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