Legacies of Democracy, a People’s History of Cuny

Completing my first Bachelors degree in Gender, Sexuality, and Social Justice Movements with the CUNY Baccalaureate for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies program, has encouraged me to engage in pedagogies that has allowed me to blend, mix, and combine diverse elements in a way that created something new and even more valuable than its separate parts. I had the opportunity to be a part of varied learning environments that have given me the opportunity to plug into student activism while being an active witness to the changing landscape of higher education. The most daunting challenge that I faced as a student organizer was during The City College of New York (CUNY) illegal raid and seizure of the Morales Shakur student and community center without warning, which was met with student and community outrage.

The names of Guillermo Morales and Assata Shakur were banners for students aligning themselves with democratic principles and histories of protracted struggle. By raiding and seizing the center, the administration was complicit in the displacement of students and community members coming from disenfranchised neighborhoods. Instead of securing the resources that this center had provided, the college administration issued an illegal takeover of a space that contained 24 years of a people’s history. The illegal taking over of the Morales Shakur space signified a violation of the contract between The City College of New York and the center, which reflected the corporatization of the campus concretized by the Board of Trustees measure to limit political expression on public universities. These early experience have opened my eyes to the complexities of student organizing and made me aware of my own naiveté when it came down to the politics of higher education. While the battle to save the Morales Shakur center was lost, I had the opportunity to develop an intricate understanding of a connecting web of issues which informs my understanding for the need for a more intersectional framework in academic spaces.

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