As an alumna of UTM, and one of the founding members of the Black History Matters Coalition, I can and will say that Jenniffer Greene’s statement, “ Barber made it clear to me that he was more qualified than members of the black faculty to address the needs of black students and that he made it more than clear that he was here to ‘agitate and make noise’ and he was more interested in the process than the outcome,” stands on a shaky foundation, to say the least. I am curious to know in exactly what ways David Barber “made it clear,” to her that he was more qualified than members of the black faculty to address the needs of black students on campus. Green was not part of the founding process of BHMC and joined the group relatively late in its operation. She did not witness the fundamental groundwork laid by students and alumni nor participate in discussions concerning the direction, intent, and desired outcomes of the group led by students, not David Barber. Her late entry into the group may have affected her perception of the group’s leadership dynamics.
Second, neither David Barber nor the black faculty was, “more qualified,” to address the needs of black students on campus, and nor did David Barber pretend to be. In fact, it was the black faculty, although not in its entirety, who presented themselves as, “more qualified,” to address the needs of black students on campus. When the BHMC reached out to black faculty members selected to meet with us concerning how both groups could move forward together in pursuit of a common goal, certain members of the black faculty responded by telling us of the BHMC to, “just be quiet and take a backseat for a while,” in order to, “let them handle it.” “It,” refers to the issues raised by black students on campus. What those members and Jenniffer Green failed to realize is that it was always the students themselves who were most qualified to voice their needs on campus, which is why the BHMC was organized and run by students. David Barber served as a bridge to higher-ups and as a door to rooms that students otherwise would have a hard time opening. He was not the driving force behind the movement but did provide valuable experience and mentorship, which is more than I can say about Greene or those members of the black faculty who took a stand against us. At no point did Barber present himself to the BHMC as, “more qualified,” than anyone to address the needs of black students on campus.
Next, to address Green’s claim that Barber, “made it more than clear that he was here to agitate and make noise.” Her claim is a gross misinterpretation of words. Yes, David Barber did use the wording mentioned by Green, but the intent behind his words was well in the scope of “agitators” and “noise makers” like Ella Baker and SNCC, Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement, James Baldwin, and even the founding fathers of this country. Never in the history of change has change been achieved without making noise and taking direct action against injustice. BHMC did exactly as others before us and took direct action. If that makes us “agitators” and “noise makers,” then we are proud to be both.
Last, Green’s claim that Barber, “was more interested in the process than the outcome,” is an interesting claim in my personal opinion. It is interesting because the “process,” surrounding change is just as important as the change itself. For example, one cannot expect genuine change to happen or progress to be made if the process in which the change is brought about is corrupt or biased. David Barber and the BHMC were both well within our rights to be concerned about the steps being taken in pursuit of our goal. At one point, the issue of “process,” was brought to the BHMC. Apparently, we had not been able to move our initiative forward or gain an audience, with the faculty senate for example, due to us, “not following the proper processes.” However, when BHMC regrouped and followed the necessary and proper steps, we were met with more excuses and setbacks. I feel that it would be irresponsible of any organization in the pursuit of change to not concern itself with the “process,” just as much as it concerns itself with the outcome. And, if Green is referring to BHMC and David Barbers’ concern with how the change we sought would be established, maintained, and continued, again I say we were well within our rights and acted no differently from those who walked the road before us. Martin Luther King Jr didn’t just create change and then walk away. He left in place concrete plans of action to ensure change would continue to thrive. We, the BHMC and DAvid Barber, simply sought to do the same.
UTM alumna and also a former member of the Black History Matters Coalition