Tag Archives: Columbia University

Fight Racist Destruction of Harlem

NEW YORK CITY, April 12 — Hundreds of Harlem residents and their supporters formed a human chain across several long cross-town blocks and then marched on the NY State Office Building, battling the gentrification of East, Central, and West Harlem, which will displace thousands of working-class residents and many small businesses. The cops tried to pen the demonstrators into a small area on the street, but they immediately broke through the barricades and took over the sidewalk. Almost all the passing motorists honked in support.

Having recently approved the take-over of West Harlem by Columbia University, the City Council’s zoning subcommittee has now voted to rezone Harlem’s main thoroughfare, 125th Street, and two surrounding blocks all the way across Manhattan, for luxury housing and businesses. Central Harlem is home to mostly low-income and working-class African-Americans, averaging below $25,000 annually. It’s also a cultural center, home to generations of black writers, performers and artists. East Harlem (El Barrio) is a mainly Latino neighborhood, also providing housing for mainly low-income workers. This demonstration marked the first time in recent history that groups from all these areas have marched together.

For two decades, gentrification has been underway, with the renovation of old brownstones and houses, attracting African-American professionals and a growing white population. As local property values rise, Harlem can be totally gentrified within the next decade. Tenant activists estimate that half of all Harlem residents may be forced to move.

Although this show of militancy and unity was heartening, a weakness of the movement has been its looking for “good “politicians to turn things around. Some hope the new black governor, David Patterson (who replaced Eliot Spitzer), will protect their interests. But Patterson is closely tied to the other prominent black NY politicians, ex-mayor David Dinkins and Rep. Charles Rangel, who are deeply embedded with developers. Some hope City Council members will carry their banner, but the Harlem representatives have long supported gentrification. A few involved fighters are nationalist, and see this attack as only against “their own group.” Most have welcomed the support of all.

Several comrades have been active in a Harlem church and community groups. We’ve pointed out how only a movement of rank-and-file workers and students can be relied upon to have our interests at heart, and that all politicians can only survive by doing the bidding of capitalist profiteers.

This attack on all of Harlem is based on racism of the foulest sort, hoping that not only will all NYC workers not back Harlem’s struggle, but will even welcome “racial cleansing.” We emphasize the role that racism plays and the necessity of multi-racial unity.

Most importantly, we must win our friends to see that gentrification, like the housing and financial crisis, the growing income gap and widening war and fascism are all part of capitalism, and therefore all our efforts should be linked to the fight against this racist system. We will continue to distribute CHALLENGE and bring some new friends to May Day.

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Harlem March Fights Columbia U. Expansion, Demands Clinic Re-opening

NEW YORK CITY, Dec. 1 — Today, about 30 people held a militant march in Harlem demanding that the Manhattanville Clinic, once a NYC Dept of Health Child Health Clinic, be re-opened. The city closed it in 1999, supposedly for renovations, and then spent $5 million redoing the façade while leaving the inside untouched. Meanwhile, the health and access to health care of the black and Latino residents of Harlem remain dismal.

The demonstration was an important breakthrough. It was initiated by parishioners at a nearby church, who began the effort under CHALLENGE readers’ leadership, and was led by Sunday School youth carrying a banner linking the issue to expanding war and racism. It was co-sponsored by the Coalition to Preserve Community (CPC), the group which has been fighting Columbia University’s expansion into Harlem.

Also present were Columbia students, who had just completed a 9-day hunger strike against racism in the curriculum and the expansion, and other students from the City University of New York. These combined forces, involving workers and students of all ages, ethnic backgrounds and occupations, have great potential to build a militant anti-racist movement in Harlem.

The demonstration’s size was limited because the same groups had been busy all week protesting at City Planning Board hearings, where the Columbia plan was being voted on. Although the hearing room had only about 75 seats, mostly filled by Columbia, dozens of opponents were standing around the edges.

As soon as the cops tried to evict the standees, they began chanting and making continuous speeches. One pointed out the conflict of interest on the Board, with one member being an ex-Columbia dean and another having University construction contracts. Many of the others, especially the chairwoman, are the super-rich, which one protester illustrated by displaying a picture of her in a gown in her gilded apartment. The cops gave up trying to evict the protesters.

Of course, the Board voted almost unanimously to support Columbia, as the whole plan was agreed to long ago by the mayor and City Council President. In this age of endless imperialist wars and huge racist cutbacks, only a massive militant student and community opposition could really have a chance of blocking the expansion and begin to fight for the jobs, health care and housing needed in Harlem.

But this movement cannot rely on any politicians and must understand the nature of the present period. While we in PLP fight for larger-scale actions involving rank-and-file workers and students in Harlem, this is why we also build CHALLENGE networks that fight for our communist politics.

Already we have expanded CHALLENGE circulation in the community around the church, but we must involve this base in more actions like this demonstration. In the anti-Columbia expansion movement, we will continue to build ties with members of all groups while we discuss the need to dump this whole rotten society and build a communist world.

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Workers, Students Slam Columbia U.’s Racism

NEW YORK CITY, Nov. 10 — “Harlem: not for sale! Hunger strikers: not for sale! Our homes: not for sale! Our jobs: not for sale!” chanted a multi-racial crowd of 250 angry community residents, students and faculty marching today on Columbia University’s main campus and at President Lee Bollinger’s house.

Protesters gathered at the Low Library to hear speakers express their outrage — in English and Spanish — over Columbia’s racist expansion northward into Harlem, displacing 5,000 black, Latino and white working-class residents. Then everyone marched to Bollinger’s house, rhythmically accompanied by a radical marching band. He wasn’t home, but the crowd demanded community residents not be displaced or have a hazardous biological agent research facility near their homes. Student organizers and hunger strikers spoke of Columbia’s long history of supporting brutal U.S. imperialism and exploitation, responsible for genocide against millions of Native Americans. One explained it was the profit system that made Columbia not give a rat’s ass about workers and students.

PLP members and friends made several new contacts from Columbia, Hunter and City College. Black and Latino workers eagerly grabbed all 50 copies of CHALLENGE faster than we could keep up. One marcher exclaimed, “Hey, is that CHALLENGE? Give me a copy!” saying that he first encountered PL as a Columbia student participating in the big 1968 strike. We also helped distribute community leaflets exposing the utterly racist nature of Columbia’s actions and as an institution.

The students have four demands: administrative reform, ethnic studies, community involvement in Columbia’s expansion into Harlem and core curriculum. In the 1960s and ’70s, some colleges instituted such reforms after similar protests. While we support the anti-racist actions of the students, such demands won’t change the basic nature of Columbia or of U.S. college education, the essence of which is as racist and pro-war as ever.

There will be another mass protest on December 1. We’re working with other campus student organizers as well as raising these issues in the graduate schools. We’ll also struggle with our friends over the necessity of exposing Columbia and capitalist higher education (with or without ethnic studies) as essentially racist, anti-working class and pro-war.

We must fight for students to accept leadership from the multi-racial masses of workers in Harlem, who have been fighting Columbia’s racist expansion for decades. We in PLP organize for a worker-student alliance based on fighting racism, imperialist war and all other monsters created by capitalism. Our aim is to fight for a communist society based on need, not profits of a few bosses, like the owners of Columbia.

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Mass Outrage vs. Noose Hanging, Racist Columbia U.

NEW YORK CITY, October 10 — Mimicking the racism in Jena, Louisiana, racists hung a noose symbolizing lynching on the door of a black faculty member, Madonna G. Constantine, at Columbia University’s Teachers College. Today, a couple hundred students, faculty and members of the Harlem community demonstrated on the steps of Teachers College to protest this racist act. After several speeches, the demonstration turned into a march around the campus that culminated in a forum of about 600 inside the college. PLP’ers joined the march, sold CHALLENGES and distributed leaflets. Many of the marchers carried signs linking the racism of this incident to that of the attack on the Jena Six.

Although students and professors were outraged and surprised at this noose hanging, there should be no surprise. This incident followed anti-Arab graffiti found in Columbia’s SIPA building, stating that “AMERICA is for WHITE EUROPEANS!” That was swept under the rug. Since the noose hanging, anti-Semitic graffiti was found in a university bathroom. President Lee Bollinger’s e-mail about it said we should just ignore such racist terror. But the noose incident was too blatant to ignore.

Columbia has a long racist history. Its faculty included W. H. Sheldon, who “theorized” that “Negro intelligence . . . [comes to a] standstill at about the 10th year,” and that “Mexican intelligence” stops at age 12. It also included Henry Garrett, who wrote pro-segregation literature for the White Citizens Councils in the South. During the Vietnam War, Columbia’s racist weapons research helped slaughter Indochinese peasants. It seized part of a park in a black working-class neighborhood to build a gym for Columbia students. Current Columbia child psychiatrist Gail Wasserman carried out a variety of racist “violence-in-the-genes” research on black and Latin youth to “predict anti-social behavior.”

Today, Columbia pushes its racist eminent domain expansion into Harlem. It sponsors anti-Arab speakers, including David Horowitz, Sean Hannity, Phyllis Chesler, and Ibn Warraq as part of their so-called “Islamo-fascism Awareness Week.” It used the invitation to Iran’s president to provoke blatant anti-Muslim racism. The latest string of hate crimes simply flows from this racist history.

Meanwhile, the university tries to diffuse anti-racist action. It hides other racist incidents, requires multicultural “sensitivity” training and pushes “dialogue” to bury united militant action.

“White skin privilege” is pushed on white students while black and Latino students are saturated with divisive identity politics. Racism is portrayed as simply an “aberration” that can be “undone” if people are just “educated” enough. There’s no mention of racism being a means to class exploitation. Racism is a major weapon against the whole working class.

Columbia’s divisive propaganda is reflected in one discussion of the noose hanging when an Arab student complained about a lack of concern regarding anti-Arab racism. A black student countered that “foreigners” just don’t “get it” — “we must address anti-black white racism first and deal with all the rest later.” But this simply hands power to the same racists who hung the noose in Teachers College. The bosses love nothing more than working-class people fighting amongst themselves and focusing on their supposed “differences” instead of uniting to smash their common oppressor. Historically black workers and students have been in the forefront of fighting racism that has won victories for the entire working class.

Racism can’t be ignored, reformed or discussed away. Columbia students need multi-racial unity and mass militant action to answer these racist scum, not more talking and internal division.

The capitalist system that creates a culture like the noose incidents is the same one dropping cluster bombs on Iraqi children and gunning down immigrants on the U.S.-Mexican border. Racism is the tool of a system that is an enemy to all workers, students, teachers and soldiers. Uniting to end this blood-drenched profit system and its imperialist wars through workers power — communism — will mean the bosses’ days are numbered.

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