Raab Announces Memorial Dedications at Black History Month Convocation

Two Hunter locations will be renamed for Black leaders in the community, President Jennifer J. Raab announced during her opening remarks at the annual Black History Month Convocation last week.

The building at 68th Street and Lexington Ave. will be renamed for the late poet and activist Audre Lorde, who went to Hunter College High School and taught here in her later years. 

The 6th Floor Library in the Hunter East Building will have a section newly dedicated to the late Dr. John Henrik Clarke, who was the chair of the Black Studies Department 40 years ago.

President Raab quoted the college founder when she said the university strives to provide, “full and open access to women of every race, religion, heritage and social class,” a goal which both Lorde and Clarke embodied and matches the intentions of these memorial initiatives.

During the 90-minute Zoom convocation, featured speaker Dr. Christina Greer juxtaposed the hope that Black people will get full recognition for their contributions to society with the doubt that the political climate would support those reparations.

“Institutional and systemic and historic,” Greer said of the problems Black people face in society. “They’re not these one-offs that tend to happen.” She cited trash incinerators in Harlem and Black communities invaded by freeways as examples.

Setting the mood for the event was the Grace Baptist Church and Cathedral Choir singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” The photo montage that filled the screen featured police brutality, hosings and lynchings, Thurgood Marshall, Oprah and Nelson Mandela.

As master of ceremonies, Professor of African and Puerto Rican/Latino Studies Joanne Edey-Rhodes reminded the over 100 attendees that February became Black History Month because it was initially Black History Week centered on the birthdays of Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln. They were two men who helped further the cause of Black recognition and gave people hope.

Greer, a professor at Fordham University and an expert in Black politics, examined a long list of issues in Black politics and weighed hope against facts. She reminded attendees that she’s a global majority–most people in the world are women of color. 

Greer said recent threats to historically Black colleges and universities are, “old American tactics used by White nationalists to scare Black people.”

Greer emphasized asking questions in the Zoom chat and answered all that were asked. These included questions about her outlook on gaining representation in elections, local versus national politics and the effectiveness of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives like those at Hunter. 

She also warned, “it’s really important for us to recognize what is substantive and what is window dressing” in terms of political wins for the cause. 

To that effect, she remarked on how people can’t get the George Floyd Policing Act  passed despite the fact the executive and legislative branches of government are led by Democrats. 

Despite this, Greer has hope. “Investing in our American democracy is an every day project,” she said.

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