Merritt College

Social movements in academic spaces

Studies of social movements over the years have found that participants share common demographics: A majority are students in their 20s. Perhaps this is because college campuses are enabling spaces for assembly and protest. They grant students access to information, advanced technologies, and a large student body. Black Panther Party founder Huey P. Newton found such an environment at Merritt College (then Merritt Junior College) where he met co-founder Bobby Seale. Both were active in other campus movements before they founded the Black Panther Party for Self Defense and drafted its Ten-Point Program on October 15, 1966.
As the Party increased in membership Newton eventually became the Party’s Minister of Defense and is commonly pictured with a rifle in one hand and a spear in the other. His effigy became one of the Party’s many symbols as the movement spread throughout Oakland and across the country. Also disseminated was the Ten-Point Program, number five of which reads: “We Want Education For Our People That Exposes The True Nature Of This Decadent American Society. We Want Education That Teaches Us Our True History And Our Role In The Present-Day Society.”
Newton and Seale understood the power of education—particularly an education that challenges common knowledge. This sentiment strikes a chord with recent protests at Mizzou which have awakened similar activism and displays of solidarity on campuses across the country. The group “Concerned Student 1950”—which derives its name from the first year Missouri State accepted a black student—is focused on holding the University accountable for protecting students of color. The organization pushed for University President Tim Wolfe’s resignation because they felt he did not acknowledge or address racist incidents on campus. Overall, they seek to bring attention to racism on college campuses via public demonstrations and social media. Twitter and Facebook have been at the forefront of the Mizzou protests as forums for sharing incidents and statements of solidarity. Across the country students have been sharing experiences of being called racial slurs, discovering offensive and threatening graffiti in predominantly black spaces, experiencing discrimination by faculty, et cetera. Common experiences between campuses have inspired students all over the United States to join #ConcernedStudent1950 in a movement that promises a Black Panther magnitude of influence.

Street Address:

12500 Campus Dr, Oakland, CA 94619 [map]

Cite this Page:

Camille J. Brown, “Merritt College,” Street Stories: Oakland, accessed December 14, 2017, http://streetstoriesoakland.com/items/show/87.

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