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Midterm Review

No, I don’t mean the dreaded papers and exams that we just put behind us. I mean it’s over halfway through the semester so we’ll reflect on BSU happenings so far this Spring.
As a centerpiece of our annual programming, we presented Black History Month 2014, “A Celebration of Blackness.” According to several faculty members and students, BHM 2014 was on point. We kicked off our heritage month on Claiming Williams Day by facilitating a Q&A with renowned poet of Striver’s Row, Joshua Bennett. The next day, we facilitated the thought-provoking interdisciplinary panel “Exploring the Implications of the Black Body.” The event featured Professors Nimu Njoya, Sandra Burton, and James Manigault-Bryant, as well as visiting visual activist Zanele Muholi. On Sunday, February 9th, we hosted Dr. Ibrahim X. Kendi to present a lecture on Revitalizing the Black Campus Movement. The following week, Professor Leslie Brown expanded on that revitalization in a dinner lecture on “Black Power in the Civil Rights Era”.
On Thursday February 20th, students and faculty enjoyed a dynamite Soul Food Dinner prepared by guest chef Velma McAdoo. After the dinner, we fought the -itis and waddled over to Griffin 3, where scholar-activist Darnell Moore seamlessly blended theory and application in his lecture “An Interrogation of the Black Presence in the Queer Project”. The next day, we kept the food coming by cohosting a soulful Shabbat Dinner with WCJA. Noting that man does not live by bread alone, we hosted “Taste and See” A Celebration of Black Religious Traditions on Saturday, February 22nd in Thompson Memorial Chapel. This comprehensive church service featured a sermon by Rev. Dr. Shelley D. Best, music by Minister Troy Oliver and the choir Integrity, and selections by the Williams College Gospel Choir.
On Monday, February 24th, we featured Rika Shabazz ’17 for BSU Story Time. We enjoyed ice cream, cupcakes, and her funny, powerful story. On Friday, February 28th, we packed Dodd Living Room and showcased some of the hottest talent on campus for our annual event Ruby Lounge. Although not technically during the month of February, we closed our heritage month on March 1st with the cosponsored Sankofa Step Show After-party in Goodrich Hall.

We also hosted a BSU WCJA Jazz Party on March 15th. The Black Student Union and the Williams College Jewish Association teamed up to host one of the livest, classiest turn ups of the year. The Williams College Jazz Quartet killed it from 10pm to 1am in Spencer Living Room while students danced in styles ranging from swing to the Wobble.

We’ve gotten back to Sunday general meetings after a break for BHM. On Sunday March 9th, we discussed Black Hair at Williams—how to thrive here from the roots on up. Then on Sunday March 16th we welcomed representatives from ACE to discuss representation and collaboration between our groups.

Lastly, The Williams College Black Student Union is happy to announce that it is holding its first Black Solidarity Conference! Explore “Black Leadership in the Modern Age” from Friday April 11th to Sunday April 13th! The conference will highlight different facets of black leadership both in the past and the present. We will feature activist and intellectual Ms. Angela Y. Davis as our keynote speaker.

See the full schedule of events here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ruiQC5y48Forkd42kKqSYSTrUUZH4rQTPdmTVmdINc4/edit?usp=sharing

Register by April 8th 2014 at 5pm using this link: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1jH9znSHznTmn24jL4mPrA0Ddzp2XRoHlF4QaCctmA3M/viewform

Enjoy the remainder of Spring Break everyone,
Todd Hall ‘16
BSU Historian

Remembering Professor Ernest Brown

(taken from the official Williams College website)

To the Williams Community,

I am sad to report the death of Ernest Brown, professor of music.

Since joining the faculty in 1988, Ernest broadened culturally the college’s engagement with music. As an ethnomusicologist he taught such courses as “Music Cultures of the World,” “History of African American Music,” and “Black Music and Postmodernism.” He was an accomplished player of the marimba and mbira as well as a drummer. And, of course, he was so deeply involved for many years with both Kusika and the Zambezi Marimba Band. Nothing was more aurally and visually joyful than experiencing Ernest on stage surrounded by students as they made delightful music together.

Ernest also greatly increased the college’s interaction with Africa itself–bringing performers here and traveling there himself, sometimes for research and other times as a cultural emissary sponsored by the U.S. State Department.

Our thoughts are with his family. We’ll pass on any details of memorial arrangements when they’re known.

Adam Falk

 (taken from the Record, Williams College newspaper)
Passing of Ernest Brown saddens College community

After a prolonged illness, beloved professor, mentor, musician and director Ernest Brown passed away on April 3 at the age of 64.

Professor Ernest Brown

Ernest Brown, beloved professor, musician, mentor and director, passed away on April 3. Photo courtesy of the Robert Kim.

He is survived by his wife of 42 years, Susan Revotskie, and their four children.

Brown arrived at the College in 1988 and joined the music department as a full-time ethnomusicologist, a study focused on non-Western music. Brown received his degree in ethnomusicology from the University of Washington and then moved from the West coast to teach at the College. Since then he has taught several courses including “Music Cultures of the World,” “History of Jazz,” “History of African-American Music” and “Black Music and Post-modernism.” He also collaborated with Sandra Burton, senior lecturer in dance, to found Kusika in 1989. Brown later founded the Zambezi Marimba Band in 1992.

Outside of the classroom, Brown was conducting his own research around the world. He did short research projects in Trinidad, Cuba and Ghana and wrote his dissertation on Zambian royal xylophone and drum bands. It was this focus within his own research and his personal relationships with musicians around the world that led to his involvement with Kusika and Zambezi. “This new ensemble allowed him to teach a genre of African music that is less widely known in the United States,” Burton explained. “Brown’s scholarship and excellent connections to the community of musicians from the African continent supported the development of marimba and mbira music at Williams and on the east coast of this country.”

Burton also spoke to Brown’s personal commitment to helping the group to flourish. “His leadership helped build broad support for Kusika in the music department and Africana studies. Brown led Winter Study courses to Ghana and Cuba that deepened student understanding of the source of the music and dance they were learning,” she said. As anyone can tell from a Kusika or Zambezi performance, Brown’s enthusiasm also helped to build a group of students who are equally as passionate about these types of music and dance.

Music major Laone Thekiso ’12 came to the College after hearing the marimba band. “I sought him [Brown] out,” Thekiso said. “He was a hard person to track down, [but] he was very easygoing.” Theskiso has been involved in Zambezi throughout his four years at Williams and has seen how Brown’s influence and motivation aided the development of the group. “He was very progressive,” Theskiso said. “He was pushing for whoever was being creative to do what they wanted.”

Professor of Music and Music Department Chair Jennifer Bloxam explained that Brown also singlehandedly built the marimba set that Zambezi uses. “He was such an innovator. He brought materials to build instruments from Africa,” Bloxam said. “Over the years he created a set of chromatic Zimbabwean marimbas with an expanded number of notes for an expanded repertoire of songs.” It was this mindset of innovation that motivated Brown to create one of the most elaborate marimba sets on the East coast out of an area of study that did not even exist at the College prior to his arrival.

“Ernest Brown always had a smile on his face,” Bloxam said. “He was just the most affable fellow.” She also spoke about his “graceful dignity” even when his illness was beginning to take its toll on his work over the past few years. Despite retiring in December, Brown attended the marimba Winter Study performance at the end of January. “There was nothing but pure joy on Ernest’s face,” Bloxam said.

Brown has left a powerful legacy on this campus in every aspect. Thekiso explained that even after Brown became sick, he always played a supporting role within Zambezi. “You could really rely on him having your back. If you took your case to Professor Brown he would most likely support you,” he said. In the end, it was Brown’s personality that helped make Zambezi and Kusika such strong artistic forces they are on the campus today.

Burton explained exactly how important these two groups have become to this campus and its diversity. “Zambezi and Kusika have become traditions at Williams that are part of Brown’s legacy as a scholar, teacher, musician and community builder. His passion for learning and creating was inspiring. His tenacity, humor and dedication to our work is a powerful part of our history and foundation,” she said.

According to Rick Spalding, chaplain to the College, Brown’s family has requested that we celebrate and pay tribute to his rich and abundant legacy of scholarship, mentorship and companionship in conjunction with this year’s final performances of the groups he helped to found on May 5 at 8 p.m. A group of faculty, staff and students who were close to him are in the process of planning the components of that celebration of his life.

“Next year we will present our World Music concerts as a distinct series within our visiting artist concerts, under the title ‘The Ernest Brown World Music Concert Series,’” Bloxam explained. The World Music concerts have traditionally been part of a larger concert series, but will be rededicated in Brown’s memory this coming year, according to Bloxam. “It’s a way to pay tribute to Ernest, who brought music and musicians from beyond U.S. borders to Williamstown, and to highlight the importance of this presence on our campus,” she said.

Brown’s legacy and easygoing personality will be remembered on this campus and around the world. They will live on through the vibrancy of Zambezi and Kusika and through the appreciation of music from around the world. “He was very young at heart,” Thekiso said.

by Megan Bantle, Executive Editor

Class on MLK Day?

The MCC has created a great lineup of workshops, exhibits, and discussions for this year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day tomorrow. However, Williams College has decided not to cancel classes. After doing a little research, I was surprised to find out that it wasn’t until January 17, 2000 that MLK day was officially observed in all 50 states.  Furthermore, Greenville County, South Carolina was the last state county to officially make Martin Luther King, Jr. Day a paid holiday on January 16, 2006. Some states don’t even call Martin Luther King, Jr. Day by it’s name. For example, in Utah its called Human Rights Day and in Arizona and New Hampshire its known as Civil Rights Day. While I’m definitely thankful and excited for all the campus events, I just wish we would recognize the significance of the day wholeheartedly. Winter Study is not so serious that we couldn’t afford to miss one day of classes. Regardless, it is important that students show support by attending events even if Williams won’t officially honor the holiday.

Hate Crime at Williams College

On November 12th, 2011, an unknown individual wrote the phrase “All Niggers Must Die” on the walls of the dormitory on campus. At first, the exact words that were written on the walls of the Prospect dormitory were not revealed to the student body. Instead, the administration sent out this email to the student body:

To the Williams Community, It is both saddening and upsetting to report that a racially hateful phrase was written last night on a wall in a student residence hall. It did not seem targeted at an individual. The writing was removed and a full investigation begun. There is no place at Williams for such behavior. In addition to the effort to indentify whoever is responsible, we will be in touch regarding ways that we can together respond to this attempt to disrupt our community.


Adam Falk ,Sarah Bolton,Steve Klass  

The email that was sent allowed students to make many assumptions. They include: 1) the targeted group was probably “Blacks,” the racial graffiti was more than likely a racial slur and/or phrase, and finally that the racial graffiti definitely did not include a death threat. Another factor that many believed played a role in the reporting of the incident to students was the fact that Homecoming was the same weekend. Did administration send out a vague email to prevent a campus-wide scare? The administration insisted that Homecoming activities had nothing to do with the reporting process. Many to this day wish that the administration had been more transparent in their initial email because they believed that it definitely could have changed the way that students, faculty, staff, and alumni organized their actions and moves that day.

A select group of students were notified about the incident later that night after most of the Homecoming activities had come to an end. During the series of meeting that night, students voiced their frustrations with the administrations initial response. Many students also demanded that the college take several immediate ; these actions included that  a more transparent protocol in place for future events, officially labeling the incident as a “hate crime,” and the cancelling of classes on the following Monday. Out of the three listed, efforts and progress were made on all three. The willingness from the administration to meet all of the demands made by students gave many the impression that significant changes would be made.

To date, the college has reported information on the efforts and progress that has been made in their investigation. The perpetrator has not been found, but efforts are still being made to figure out this crime.

Below are some responses and official reports of the Hate Crime at Williams College.