The UMN Board of Regents were going to arrest and remove Professor John Wright — founder of its African American & African Studies Dept, civil rights activist, MacArthur fellow (nominated by novelist Ralph Ellison) — from their farce of a meeting yesterday about the building re-naming commission’s report, until the Minnesota Higher Education Worker Center acted by surrounding him, and persuaded other members of the audience to join us at the front. We overpowered the Regents, and John spoke for 17 minutes, dismantling the nonsense that the Regents have been spewing the last few weeks, their distortions, lies, and apologies for racists, anti-semites, FBI informants, and segregationists. (Also, if you listen carefully as we’re asking for more people to surround John, about 40 seconds in, Regent Johnson says : “Board members, we will take a 5 minute recess, and WE ASK LAW ENFORCEMENT TO REMOVE THEM” — So much appreciation for the faculty, grads, staff, and students who came forward with me to protect John despite this disgusting plea to the police.) I urge you to listen to some of his powerful speech.
‘Audience members often interjected during the meeting, calling for more respect for faculty and assailing regents’ reading of the historical record. In one dramatic moment, faculty and students gathered around retiring Prof. John Wright, who is black, to prevent campus security from removing him until he could address the board. Regent Dean Johnson, who chaired the meeting and at first said police would eject Wright if he did not resume his seat, relented and allowed Wright to speak.
Wright, whose aunt was a campus activist during former President Lotus Coffman’s tenure, said his policies had a chilling effect on the attendance of black students — a reality that is well-known among the state’s black community.
“This is an issue of honor and institutional integrity, and nobody has a permanent lease on honor,” Wright said, adding that a “conspiracy of silence” around the U’s history is over.”‘
And follow Minnesota Higher Education Worker Center for updates and next steps. We’ve been organizing for over a year now to address the Board of Regents’ incompetence and authoritarian tendencies, as well as the overall right-wing and corporate infiltration of this public institution — and the complicity of most of the rest of the U’s power structure — and we will continue to build power and fight back.