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The student news site of Dickinson College.

The Dickinsonian

The student news site of Dickinson College.

The Dickinsonian

    FROM THE ARCHIVES: Newly elected Prime Minister of the Afro-American Organzation talks about the past and the future

    March 7, 1969

    Interview for The Dickinsonian by Arthur Murphy


    Murphy: Mike, the Afro-American Organization is a year old and you have been with the organization for perhaps half a year. What advances do you think it has made over what you have heard were made last year?

    Floyd: I think the main advancement that the organization has made this year as compared with last year is that it has opened up more communication with the administration. I think we’re much. closer to the office of admissions than we were last year. We’re working more as a unit and we’re getting things accomplished that I feel are pretty important.

    Murphy: Such as?

    Floyd: The summer program. I think that if this program is run right and if it has the philosophy behind it that we hope it will, it can be a great program for black students or for any under- privileged student. The Recruitment of more black students-that is something that has only come recently-with the Afro-American organization taking a part in it.

    Murphy: What do you feel are the goals for the summer program itself?

    Floyd: The goal of the summer program is to make the black student aware. It’s more than just a program to prepare him for the college work that he will be doing when he arrives here in the Fall. It’s to make him aware, for instance, through readings that he will have by black authors. Instead of reading Hemingway and Faulkner, he’ll be reading authors whose works are much more relevant to him as a Black Person or as an oppressed person in general. He’ll be reading Cleaver and Malcolm and hopefully Fanon.

    Murphy: The structure of the organization has changed in the past year. Could you explain the change and the reasons for the change.

    Floyd: Yes this year the leader of the organization is Prime Minister instead of President. This title was chosen to show our support for the ideals of the Black Panther movement. The title itself means very little but it is very important, we feel, that there must be a means of identifying with the movement of the Black people of this country. Black students here are separated from culture and normal political and social activity. There must be therefore a means to relate to our own communities at home. The structure of the organization is only one small way to keep in psychological touch. The Black Panther organization save the psychological needs, has another very important attribute. Each officer has assigned areas of responsibility.

    We have a Minister of Correspondence and Communication, Minister of Action, Minister of Information, etc. Each develops leadership experience in his area and becomes fully acquainted with the information available. The individual is therefore more useful to the organization as well as to himself in terms of his intellectual development.

     Murphy: Is there anything else that you’ll be working with, let’s say in terms of cultural affairs programs, scholarship programs, or something like this, black counsellors or anything?

    Floyd: We have managed to secure seats on a few committees that have some say as to who comes for lectures and cultural affairs. Next year we have managed to secure Le Roi Jones (who is to speak at Wilson College this Saturday by the way), but at this point there is little that is very different from the past year. Hopefully the organization will get enough money to have the Slave Singers from Philadelphia to come and perhaps the Maulana Ron Rarenga Troupe with them also.

    Murphy: What do you feel is the relevance of the quadrangle to black students on campus or any existing social organization on campus right now? 

    Floyd: If you’re speaking of the fraternities I think they have no relevance at all to a black student. 

    Murphy: Why?

    Floyd: Primarily because fraternities are based on exclusion. They started in the South and they are historically racist organizations. Even now even though the fraternities have cut out their clauses of racial discrimination, they are primarily for white anglo-saxon protestants. The things that they orient themselves towards are white anglo-saxon protestant values. The morals of the whole value system of the fraternity system are really antithetical to the values of a black student-especially an aware black student, and I can’t include myself in such an organization or call myself a member of it. I think that one can’t belong to an organization that is simply social. The organization that I affiliate myself with, the Afro-American Organization is one that has an ideology and deals with real things in the outside world other than social. It develops a student intellectually as well as socially. We deal with works by Le Roi Jones, Franz Fanon, and W. E. B. DuBois. These are authors who are relevant to us. who can help us when we go home to our black neighborhoods and I think this is important for a black student. And this is another reason why I think a black student has no place in a fraternity. Because a fraternity is very narrow in its outlook and it hinders his development as a black person.

    Murphy: Are you a member of any Black outside organization other than the one on Dickinson’s campus or have you been a member of any Black organization?

    Floyd: Last year I was a member of the Black Student Union at Yale, but other than that I haven’t been affiliated with any other Black student organizations. I have had opportunities, but in my home in Mississippi I felt that the work that some black organizations were doing there was irrelevant. They were fighting for integration and that’s not the answer. And I didn’t choose to affiliate myself with them.

    Murphy: What are the goals for this semester in terms of the black organization on campus?

    Floyd: At the Wednesday moratorium we will ask the faculty, administration, and student body for a black study program-hopefully for a major taught by black professors and we will probably devote our efforts to this.

    Murphy: What role do you feel groups like CDIV and SDS have in the Afro-American Organization Program?

    Floyd: Liberal coalition groups can do relatively nothing in terms of educating the Youth on this campus because they generally lack the proper foundation to understand the actions taken by the Black Student Organization. Their understanding of the basic forms that racism manifests itself is very deficient. Their inability to purge themselves of this race prejudice hinders their ability to comprehend the basic issues and tactics that most Black students take for granted as being essential. As for the members of the Students for a Democratic Society-their potential I feel is greater if they realize that a third world coalition can only be possible if each organization respects the judgment of the other to the extent that each must work within its own organization to solidify and construct. After such a program is effected both groups can attack a common foe, thereby helping each other. I don’t feel that the white American Radical has sufficiently understood the role he must play in his community.

    If the problem of Western racism is not solved, the possibilities a peaceful and lasting state of affairs in America is not promising. If Blacks were to give up the idea that the society can be changed, the movement would not be reformist it would be revolutionary.

    Murphy: What steps do you feel can be taken to thwart racism?

    Floyd: At this time many Black students feel that education is a viable means of subverting the spread of racism.

    This is now being tested in a course taught by students in the Sociology department. The course Perspectives on Race takes the best material available on the issue of race and the Black movement today and gives the student the opportunity to delve into the ramifications of the Black power movement. The first portion usually concerns the issue of race and race awareness. The student is gradually exposed to the different levels of racism and the different forms it is characterized by. The last step is usually in the realm of explaining the role that psycho-political oppression plays in the development of Black people. Most of the later readings are done in Franz Fanon.

    Murphy: Some people have called the Afro-American Organization “racist.” And they say that you are segregating yourselves from the rest of society. Would you care to comment on this?

    Floyd: This is a racist society. What you must realize is that when we organize ourselves, when we direct our actions towards racism, it is a defense mechanism. When you live in a racist society, you must defend yourselves and we must defend ourselves against psycho-political oppression-it is an oppression that has destroyed people.

    By living in a fraternity one merely re-establishes and secures the fact that his Black identity is lost-lost not only to himself but to his community. It’s basically the difference between cultural norms. I’m from Mississippi and that’s where one can very easily see the effects of psycho-political oppression.

    Even an idiot can see that people who have had their culture stolen attempt to assimilate to the one closest to them. If such a culture has a different basis and is dominant and overbearing the people will be caught in a self-hating bind and will self-destruct. It is my job to see that this does not happen here.


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