Civil rights issues are poised to take a front seat this weekend as a group of affirmative action supporters prepares to lead what it calls a national student movement but what others define as a left-wing extremist operation.
Students from around the country are to arrive on campus for a leadership conference designed to nationalize localized civil rights efforts.
The conference was put together by the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and Integration and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary after the Rev. Jesse Jackson, founder of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, came to campus in March as part of a Day of Action rally and urged students to get involved in what he dubbed “another great moment.”
“Today, I challenge you to have a national conference on this campus, convene students from all around the nation from Seattle to Texas to Florida to Maine,” Jackson said at the rally. “It should be a national conference here to prepare for a major logistical gathering,” he later told reporters.
While BAMN does expect Jackson to make an appearance during the conference, it is still unknown if and when he will arrive. BAMN members said the most likely day for Jackson to come is Friday, when there will be a noon rally on the Diag.
Friday is also the day when students from various high schools, including Cass Technical High School in Detroit and Thurgood Marshall Academic High School in San Francisco, are scheduled to visit campus.
The conference will address civil rights issues including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered rights, women”s rights, living wages, workers” rights and environmental problems.
“We”re building a movement that will fight for all these different issues,” said Rackham student Jessica Curtin, a member of BAMN. “We plan to come out of it with a real national network.”
BAMN members are hoping the conference will lead to a more powerful movement by nationalizing local struggles and bringing the national student and civil rights movements together.
“The purpose of the conference is to pull together and coordinate that movement,” Curtin said. “It”s going to be an action-oriented conference.”
While various University student organizations are supporting the conference, others, including the Minority Affairs Commission, chose not to participate in the conference.
“The reason why were not supporting it is because there has been no relationship between BAMN and MAC ,” said MAC co-chair Monique Luse, an RC junior. “There really wasn”t a commission to be established towards the end of the year to support it or not.”
Curtin traveled with RC junior Ben Royal and BAMN organizers Caroline Yong and Tonya Troy to schools across the Midwest and East Coast including New York University, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Harvard University, Brown University, and Pennsylvania State University to recruit student activists and hand-deliver a resolution passed earlier this month by the Michigan Student Assembly in support of the “student struggles” at other schools.
Representatives from 36 other colleges, some as far away as Florida and California, have registered for the conference. The universities include Colorado State University, University of Texas at Austin, University of California at Berkeley, University of Florida and Michigan State University.
On Saturday, representatives will report on activist movements at their schools. The goal of the conference is to get together a plan of action by Sunday, as well as drum up support for a national march on Washington on either Martin Luther King Day or during Black History Month. Most of the conference will take place in Hutchins Hall room 100 in the Law School.