Hundreds gathered at the University of California Santa Cruz’s administration building on the afternoon of May 4, quiet with anticipation. While some waited at the entrance, many others stood on the roof.
The crowd began to stir when someone spotted a group of students half-jogging from the hill, trailed by a few administrators. As Imari Reynolds, fourth-year student and chair of UCSC’s Afrikan/Black Student Alliance (A/BSA), reached the building, she clicked on the megaphone and tilted it up to the crowd of nearly 300.
“Now we have someone—the university spokesperson—who is going to read off a little letter from George,” Reynolds announced, referring to the university’s chancellor. “Signed and sealed—I have it right here, and on videotape.” She smiled. “Multiple copies. We don’t play.”
The other administrators hung back as the news and media-relations director stepped forward. Uncomfortably fiddling with the megaphone, he read from a written statement as hundreds of students watched.
“We recognize that we have more work to do in supporting Afrikan Black Caribbean (ABC) identified students at UCSC,” he read. “We are committed to build capacity to fully integrate ABC-identified students so that they have a sense of belonging and connectedness here on campus.” He proceeded to list the students’ four demands and then agree to each, one by one. These would be met, he said, by fall, 2017.
It was the verdict they had been waiting for after three days in the administration building, which the crowd of hundreds had refused to leave until their demands had been addressed. As the good news reached the students, they broke into a collective cheer, chanting “A/BSA” and “Black Lives Matter,” before falling to a hush as one A/BSA member took the megaphone.
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom,” she said, reciting a quote by Assata Shakur. The crowd began to join along. “It is our duty to win.” More joined in as the chant got louder. “We must love and protect one another. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
On May 2, following a campus-wide march and after more than two years of rejected demands, members of A/BSA, joined by hundreds of other students, entered Clark Kerr Hall and demanded that the employees leave the building. They banged on walls and knocked on doors. At first, some stayed, ignoring the students or putting on headphones. Others grew angry, making snide or hostile remarks as they left.
The building eventually emptied, and over the course of three days 150 students set up camp across the four floors of the building. Some slept on the ground; others stayed only during the day. Door alarms went off every so often, signaling that they had been open too long. Students plastered the windows with black and red paper signs and piled chairs high around entryways.