PHOTO: Courtnee' Morin, "Celebrating Lonnie B. Harris, his legacy," OSU The Daily Barometer, Apr. 16, 2015, p. 1 said, "The grand opening event included speeches by people such as Jaymes Winters, Larry Griggs and Geoff Brooks, people who'd had personal ties to Lonnie B. Harris. They spoke of his legacy and how it can continue even now, after his passing, with the cultural center. Oregon State University President Ed Ray and the Vice Provost of Student Affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole also spoke at the event. . . . The building itself is an homage to different African cultures using architecture and textiles in the building materials and decor that were inspired from cultures all across Africa, from the shotgun house styled gathering hall to the circular sitting room. The center will host many on-campus groups including the OSU National Panhellenic Council, the African Student Association, the Black Graduate Student Association, Black Student Union and the National Society for Black Engineers."
PHOTO: front page story, "Black Cultural Center victimized by vandals," reported in 1976 that a burning cross had been placed on the lawn of the Oregon State University Lonnie B. Harris Black Cultural Center just one year after the center was founded. Several students were caught and the university president gave them an "unspecified punishment," which upset many people on campus (See official campus student newspaper reports: Barometer, Oct. 20, 1976, p. 1, Oct. 21, p. 4, Oct. 22, p. 1, Oct. 25, p. 1, 11). The incident was also deemed important enough to be documented in the 1977 Beaver Yearbook (p. 271). See previous posts OSU cross burning 1976 (8/5/06) and OSU gay history at OutHistory.org site (1/16/12).
The OSU black student center, which students placed a burning cross on its lawn in 1976, was recently torn down and rebuilt:
"The Lonnie B. Harris Black Cultural Center at Oregon State University is ready for its close-up. The center. located at 100 S.W. Memorial Place, is hosting a grand opening ceremony at 3;30 p.m. Wednesday, and the community is invited to participate. Lonnie B. Harris was the first director of the Educational Opportunities Program that was set up to increase recruitment and retention of black students at OSU. . . The center was built on the same spot as its predecessor, but the larger footprint includes expansive meetings rooms, study spaces and a large kitchen. . . The Harris Center is one of four OSU cultural centers with new spaces. The Native American Longhouse moved into its new building in 2013 and the Cesar Chavez Centro Cultural opened in 2014. The Asian & Pacific Cultural Center holds its grand opening April 29." (Quoted from James Day, "OSU sets ceremony for new center," gazettetimes.com posted Apr. 13, 2015)
Oregon State University's four cultural centers mentioned in the news story (for black, Hispanic, Native American or Asian American students) are always mentioned by University officials separately from the OSU Pride Center for LGBT students, which in my opinion is due to political sensitivities that I understand, but hope will not be issues in the future. For example, many racial minority students don't want to be compared to gay students for homophobic reasons similar to those held by some university officials and some state conservative politicians who believe gay students have "chosen their gay lifestyle or sexual preference" and therefore are undeserving of any help from taxpayers. However, a small shift in this political talking point could be heard from U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Hispanic and the youngest Republican candidate for President, during his Apr. 19, 2015 "CBS Face the Nation" interview, when Bob Schaeffer asked about gay marriage and if being gay is a choice -- Rubio ironically said, "I don't believe people choose their sexual preferences" and added that gay marriage should be left to State Legislatures to decide instead of Judges, which is a point that still fits with conservative state rights dogma, but bravely goes against the theocratic Republicans who want to legislate, against secular gay marriage, based on their interpretation of God's word.
I am happy that four of the OSU cultural centers have been rebuilt and I hope that the university will also be able to give the OSU Pride Center the same attention in the future, as well as the Women's Center where gay activism started at OSU in the 1970's with the help of lesbian leaders.
The newspaper story about dedication of the newly built OSU black cultural center inspired me to submit the following letter to the editor of a newspaper that serves the small City where OSU is located, but the editor chose not to print it (UPDATE: 4/20/15 it was printed on Monday see link below):
In 1976, students placed a burning cross on the lawn of the Lonnie B. Harris Black Cultural Center at Oregon State University, and they received only an "unspecified punishment" by the President of OSU, according to page 1 stories in the campus newspaper, starting Oct. 20, 1976, and the 1977 Beaver yearbook, p. 271.
Similar to 1976, when no students overtly considered themselves racists, today's students can still learn lessons from the Apr. 15, 2015 grand opening of their newly built cultural center.
Some related links and thoughts:
- Staff, "Editorial: Roses and Raspberries," Gazette-Times, Apr. 17, 2015, p. A9 -- the editor picked up the point in my unpublished letter to the editor and he gives, "ROSES to the joyous opening Wednesday of the Lonnie B. Harris Black Cultural Center at the corner of Northwest Monroe and Memorial Place. We anticipate that the gleaming new building will provide a valuable, well-appointed location to assist black students with reaching their academic goals. It's also an important gathering place and fine venue for hosting events, share information and ideas and in general make Oregon State University a more welcoming place for black students -- and therefore for all students. Our front-page story Thursday about Wednesday's grand opening is an indication that the center already is finding its purpose with students. If you missed our story, read it here: http://tinyurl.com/kypc6om" that redirects to:
- James Day, "OSU black cultural center opens to cheers," posted Apr. 15, 2105 that said, "It was part celebration, part history lesson and part revival meeting - with a dance performance thrown in for more spark. Geoff Brooks, a member of the Oregon State University board of visitors, set the tone with a call-and-response chant: "This is the LONNIE ... B. ... HARRIS ... BLACK!!! ... CULTURAL CENTER!" thundered Brooks, pounding on the wall to show the permanence of the gleaming new brick-and-wood structure at the corner of Northwest Monroe Avenue and Memorial Place. The standing-room-only crowd of more than 250 filled the center's main meeting room Wednesday and spilled out onto the sun-splashed grass. They chanted right back at Brooks, a 1972 OSU alum who met Harris when Brooks came back from military service and enrolled at OSU. "Lonnie was a hero; he was a savior; he was a visionary," Brooks said of the center's namesake. Harris was the school's first director of the OSU Educational Opportunities Program, which worked to increase recruitment and retention of black students. "Lonnie provided us with leadership and the ability, and convinced us you can make a change in the campus." Larry Griggs, another member of the board of visitors, noted the racial turbulence that roiled OSU in the late 1960s and stressed the importance of Harris' work: getting students internships, recruiting and organizing job fairs. "A lot of this was the vision of Mr. Harris," said Griggs, who also noted that Harris was a star baseball player in his youth and that the center's grand opening was intentionally scheduled for April 15, the day in 1947 that Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in big-league baseball."
- "BCC holds grand opening,"dailybarometer.com posted April 14, 2015
- OSU Panhellenic Council inter/national women's fraternities and sororities Office of the Dean of Student Life Center for Fraternity And Sorority Life OSU Greek frats and sororities (PDF)
- Matt Gough, Minister in the Presbyterian Church, Corvallis, "Letters: Absence of religion would not eliminate world's evils," April 8, 2015 said, "My own denomination has been far from perfect. In our latest move to allow for same-sex weddings, we admit that we have hurt many by creating outcasts who were told, in the name of God, that they did not belong. In doing so we also have been condemned by many who would continue to discriminate and are now experiencing another schism. Our tendency toward religion, rather than love, frustrates me, too."
- Another example of Christians claiming to be victims of intolerant gays is the letter by, Chuck Lane, Blodgett, "Gay community should tolerate Christians," Sunday Albany Democrat-Herald and Corvallis Gazette-Times, Apr. 12, 2015, p. A6 (not posted online for free) who said, "Christianity around the world is under attack. . . Christian businesses . . . refuse services to gays and lesbians for religious reasons . . . Why can't the gay community show some tolerance and flexibility and compromise a bit with Christians? Why does tolerance have to be completely one-sided?"
- Ron Garnett, "Letters: Equality for one group cannot be won by denying it to another," gazettetimes.com posted April 09, 2015 said, "The presidential election campaign season is beginning, and there has been a pique of race-baiting, gender-slamming and LGBT bashing unequaled for decades. . . "
- Bennett Hall, "holocaust week: OSU expands Holocaust observance," gazettetimes.com posted Apr. 10, 2015
- "Holocaust Memorial Program continues," dailybarometer.com posted April 15, 2015 - "The program, put together by the Holocaust Memorial Committee that operates under the umbrella of the School of History, Philosophy and Religion, "grows from the belief that educational institutions can do much to combat prejudice of all kinds, and to foster respect for the diversity that is America, by promoting an awareness of the Holocaust, perhaps the most horrific historical indicator of the high cost of prejudice," according to the program's OSU webpage."
- Kyle Odegard, "Duniway could get D.C. Statue: Former mid-valley resident was a woman's pioneer," Albany Democrat-Herald Corvallis Gazette-Times, Apr. 12, 2015, p. A1-A2 - "A state committee has recommended placing new statues of pioneering women's rights advocate Abigail Scott Duniway and Chief Joseph in the National Statuary Hall at the United States Capitol. . . Duniway lived in Albany, on Calapooia Street, from 1865 until 1871 . . first came to the state by covered wagon, and Portland, where she moved to after Albany, and published her women's newspaper the New Northwest."
- Kyle Odegard, "Professor applauds effort, says history overlooks women, minorities," Sunday Albany Democrat-Herald Corvallis Gazette-Times, Apr. 12, 2015, p. A1-A2 - "An Oregon State University associate professor celebrated the possibility that statues of Abigail Scott Duniway and Young Chief Joseph could be placed in the United States Capitol's National Statuary Hall, saying that women and minorities are typically underrepresented in history. . . . said Marisa Chappell, an expert on women's history and social policy. . . Near the ceilings of the Senate and House chambers of the Oregon State Capitol, dedicated in 1938, are 158 names of people who helped shaped Oregon's history, including Duniway and Chief Joseph."