Third World Solidarity!
The stated goals of the Third World People's Solidarity Conference (Feb. 21-23) are to join the political strength of black, red and yellow people and to make the predominantly white campus aware of their commonly held oppression. In other words, "we are all in the same boat."
Organizers of the conference are enthusiastic about the growing feeling of cooperation among minority organizations. In the past, these groups often operated in isolation and even in competition with each other. The conference will serve to help solidify these cooperative efforts into one united front against racism and oppression.
U-M officials are running scared at the idea of minority groups in protest, finally working together. It serves the interests of the status quo to keep the participants divided, politically frustrated and even at each other's throats. The history of student protest groups chronicles this "divide and conquer" tactic.
One example of administrative interference and paranoia concerning this conference was a concerted effort to keep Angela Davis from speaking. Conference organizers tried to reserve Hill Auditorium back in December, a full two months ahead of time. They found it had already been booked, just the night before, by auditor of student organizations-Maurice Rinkel. It was learned that Rinkel had reserved the entire hall with no event in mind, except to keep them from having it.
The conference organizers protested vociferously and kept after the administration until officials not only relinquished Hill Auditorium, but even gave some funds to the conference!
The Third World People's Solidarity Conference offers by far the most diverse and comprehensive political program U-M has witnessed in many years. Angela Davis is speaking at Hill Auditorium, along with Clyde Bellecourt, co-founder of the American Indian Movement (AIM), and one of the main defendants in the current Wounded Wounded Knee trials. Other people from out-of-state have traveled to A2, and well over 20 people are scheduled to speak during the weekend. (See Calendar on pgs. 22-23 for further details).
The conference may help to revitalize political activism among students, after a dry spell of relative apathy on campus. Even worse, this apathy has recently given way to a trend of outright reactionism and racial hatred. Both U-M officials and their reactionary junior-executive protegees on SGC are increasingly alarmed by the potential heightening of political and Third World awareness resulting from this conference. Yet in a sense, actions this year, from politically lynching Lee Gill to cutting back on non-white personnel and advocates, had made this conference all the more vital and inevitable.
Institutional racism and reactionism are evident in the administration's refusal to meet Black Action Movement's demands for as small a minority of blacks as 10% of the total enrollment at the U, despite officials' promises "made in good faith." To add insult to injury, U-M's Student Government Council actually supported the Big U in this racist policy by condemning BAM's demands. (For more background on the follies of SGC, see page 6-7).
Just last week, SGC affected the final blow to minorities by abolishing Lee Gill's Minority Affairs Committee, thus removing all Third World spokespeople from power. But the Third World Movement has only started, in the face of incredible odds against it from the far right.
As the conference organizers have stated, "We can no longer sit and wait for solutions to OUR problems, because the answers must come from us if they are to fill our needs in entirety. We must not allow this University to continue to keep us divided and ignoring each theirs needs." --Jeanne Hing