National Youth Caucus
Over 250 students from 71 Northern California colleges gathered at a National Youth Caucus (NYC) conference Saturday in an effort to insure maximum representation of 18-24 year-olds at the 1972 Democratic National Convention. The conference was held at San Jose State College. A California Black Caucus also met Saturday at Garden Oaks School in East Palo Alto, drawing about 300 blacks from Northern California. Assemblyman Willie Brown (Dem—San Francisco) told the delegates that a solid concentration of black political power could give them considerable influence at the Democratic National Convention in Miami in July. He encouraged them to vote for a black candidate on the first ballot at the convention, no matter who they might actually be supporting. Rep. Shirley Chisholm (Dem—New York) is the only black candidate so far. Both meetings discussed youth representation at the February 12 district caucuses which each presidential candidate will hold to recommend a slate of pledged delegates and a representative to the candidate's state organizing committee.
Leading the Stanford delegation to the youth conference were ASSU Co-President Larry Diamond, Paula Johnson, Joel Kenwood, Connie Peterson and Zach Zwerdling. They are the five members of the central committee of Northern California's NYC Conference. Diamond also serves as State Chairman of the California NYC. Sen. Alan Cranston (Dem—Calif.) told the opening session of the conference that the NYC "can do a lot to shape the choices this nation and this state make next year." He added that he shared young people's "frustration over the way things are going", but that he also believed that "change can be achieved with a little more effort and organization."
Like Cranston, State Assemblyman Ken Meade (Dem—Berkeley) spoke of the power of young people in the elctoral process. Meade noted that in 1968 President Nixon carried California by 500,000 votes and that there will be at least 1.5 million 18-24 year olds casting their first votes in 1972. Taking these figures into account, Meade said that "without carrying California, Nixon would not have been elected President in 1968 and the youth vote assures that he will not win in 1972." He advised "Don't just work within the system, take advantage of it." San Francisco Sheriff Richard Hongisto claimed that "policemen are moving us towards a police state from the bottom all the way up to Attorney General John Mitchell." Hongisto, who has been a law enforcement officer for several years, was the upset winner in his race to be elected Sheriff last year. He urged his audience to "work to destroy those racist, sexist stereotypes of our decadent society." National Chairman of Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) Allard Lowenstein, a former New York Congressman and organizer of the 1968 "Dump Johnson" movement, said that "four more years of an administration steeped in deception" would be severely damaging to "the whole fabric of freedom in this country."
Speakers at the closing session of the conference were state Assemblyman John Burton, former Stanford Black Student Union president Leo Bazile, and Yvonne Westbrook unsuccessful candidate last year for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
On the Black Student Union
On April 5, 1968, Stanford's black students ignited a fire that would burn relentlessly through two decades of shifting public sentiment. Following the shocking assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., the newly established Black Student Union held a rally in White Plaza. As then-BSU co-chair Kenny Washington spoke, 40 black students banded together on stage and set fire to an American flag. Washington explained to the racially mixed crowd, "This burning flag may mean a lot to you, but it doesn't mean much to us. The fact that we are Americans is only incidental to us. The burning flag is incidental to us. We are primarily human beings." Nearly 20 years after Martin Luther King's death, the fire burns strong for Stanford's BSU. Through times of civil unrest, legal conservatism and widespread apathy, the BSU has maintained its boldness and its dream. "We are here to continue the unfinished business of the 19605," said Steve Phillips, 1984-86 BSU chair. "We stand on that history, we learn from it, and we're inspired by it." Amanda Kemp, last year's BSU chair, said that unlike many similar institutions in the country, Stanford's BSU has "an uninterrupted history of 20 years of struggle" against the status quo.
The BSU first introduced itself to the Stanford community in October 1967. Ted Spearman, senior press representative for the group, explained in an Oct. 19 Daily article that the BSU planned to focus its attention on countering apathy. "Stanford is just as hostile to black people as the rest of the country, perhaps more hostile because of its apathy. Apathy is the worst form of hostility," he said. Six months later, student behavior in response to King's death illustrated the extent of such apathy. Although many students mourned King, others expressed indifference. An April 5, 1968, Daily article reported: "One fellow at Kappa Alpha, where drinks and music created a lively atmosphere, said, 'I'm not concerned at all. I'm never upset at anything, and why should I worry? I live in Montana.' " The BSU, however, answered apathy with activism. Just hours after the flag-burning rally at White Plaza, 70 members of the BSU stormed onto the stage of Memorial Auditorium and surrounded then-Provost Richard Lyman, demanding 10 points of specific reform on minority admissions and employment at Stanford and funding for the BSU.
'It isn't just a fight for black people. The BSU is a catalyst for justice overall on this campus.' — Amanda Kemp
The BSU "never made an explicit threat of direct action but it was clear that ... they were in a position to create a lot of upheaval," said Lyman, who is currently president of the Rockefeller Foundation and was Stanford president from 1970-80. Seven hours later, after the administration responded in an open meeting at Tresidder Union, Washington shouted to the assembled crowd, "All our demands have been met!" "The BSU showed a very astute sense of how to play their cards and just how far to go in support of these demands," Lyman reflected. "Almost overnight, [the BSU] became a very prominent part of the campus action." Leo Bazile, 1968-70 BSU cochair and now an Oakland city councilmember, described the climate of the Stanford black student movement during his leadership as a "very volatile environment. Everybody was questioning tradition and values. People coincided in many cases and diverged in others." "The primary point of coming together was around questioning of institutional racism," Bazile said.