As a math major, I rarely get the chance for my personal and academic interests to collide. So this course has been a blessing to my academic and personal development and has provided plenty of perspective as my Amherst career comes to a close. I can truly leave this campus feeling that I have made a mark and left a legacy. At Amherst we are constantly working and constantly pushing for change, but we often fail to recognize where we came from and learn from those who came before us. Looking at the 1969 demands from the Afro-American Society demands I noticed how similar they were to the Amherst Uprising demands. I couldn’t help but think about how much the student body would have benefited if we had read them and been aware of the rich history of student activism on campus. This course gave me the unique opportunity to learn about black leaders and trailblazers from Amherst College and for that I am forever grateful.
If any space on campus holds importance to this thing we call the “Black experience at Amherst”, it is the Octagon. So with that being said there is so much left to do for this project. There are endless hidden treasures that have yet to be researched and explored. For example the mural across from Kevin Soltau’s remains a mystery. I would love to expand the project and research that mural. I would also like to look at other spaces on campus, like Charles Drew and eventually the Multicultural Resource Center.
After speaking with Sarah Smith from the library, I hope to make a small book that guides. It would include brief biographies about the faces on the mural as well as some general history of the Octagon and its development. Copies would present in the Octagon, Archives and possibly even the Multicultural Resource Center. The book would be a guide for future students to learn about alumni and another way to document black history at Amherst. In addition, I am currently working to set up a fundraising campaign for the Octagon and this will be an ongoing project the Black Student Union will take over in the fall. The money raised will go to renovating the Gerald Penny Center, including but not limited to repairing the heating system, purchasing new furniture, getting a dry erase board. Throughout my research, I found the Olio yearbooks, bio-files and building information folders to be particularly helpful. But this project also made me recognize the limitations of the archives and the power we have as students to ensure our stories are present in the archives. So another part of my project beyond this semester will be to ensure that documents found in the Octagon are placed into the archives for proper preservation.
A common thread that connected all parts of my research was power, resistance, perseverance and above all unity. Everything thing black students received on campus had to be fought for. Students had to place pressure on the administration and hold them accountable. But they recognized the power they possessed as a united student body. They banded together and made things happen. Now that I know what can be accomplished, I am excited for the possibilities of the Black Student Union and the Amherst black community.