The Purdue Black Cultural Center is launching a new electronic publication – Culture Briefs. This fall, the Culture Briefs will be directly tied to the BCC fall semester theme “Gullah Folklore: (Re)membering Our Pathways Through Low Country Legacies.” This is week’s brief is written by the BCC’s very own librarian, Ms. Jamillah R. Gabriel.
It was a hard transition into the Greater Lafayette area for BCC Director Emeritus, Antonio Zamora and his wife Betty. Someone left snakes in their mailbox. They got calls from the Ku Klux Klan threatening them, trying to scare them out of town. Why? Because Mr. Zamora was the director of the newly founded Black Cultural Center at Purdue University. The cultural center was not wanted by some people, so by default, neither were Mr. and Mrs. Zamora.
So why am I taking this bumpy trip down memory lane? Well, my phone rang last night and it was Mama Betty, as I call her. She asked if I had seen the Journal and Courier, the Sunday paper, page A2. I had not, so she began to tell me what was on the inside.
I learned from her that the Sunday paper featured a photograph from the J & C Archive. Well, that is not just the paper’s history, it is Black Cultural Center history too.
Stokely Carmichael (later known as Kwame Ture) was the first keynote speaker invited by Director Emeritus, Antonio Zamora when he was hired to be the director of the Purdue BCC. Mr. Zamora was well informed of the happenings among Black people nationally at this time in our history. He brought artists, intellectuals, politicians, scholars, philosophers and academics to the university interact with students and to keep them and the community informed on the happenings outside of the walls of academe. These happenings would affect their lives.
Stokely Carmichael was at the forefront of revolutionary thought and a member of SNCC, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. He was married to South African freedom fighter and artist, Miriam Makeba. Makeba used her art to speak out against the atrocities faced by Black people in South Africa.
What is not commonly known is that it was extremely hard for Mr. Zamora to find a place on campus for Stokely Carmichael to speak. Being the consummate administrator, he negotiated with the late Mr. Smalley who approved a space in the PMU Ballroom for Carmichael to speak on October 29, 1973.
All I can say is thanks Mr. Z. None of us would be here, with jobs, access to resources – globally etc., if not for your very hard work and perseverance. There would be no BCC, no programs, no building, no 44 year history at Purdue, if not for you.
For the record… you music lovers will get a kick out of this:
Another incident occurred that academic year. Guests to the university, invited by Mr. Zamora, were to perform a free open-air concert at Slater Hill. The men in the band were asked to NOT use the dressing rooms to change into their performance attire. Eventually, things were worked out and the show happened.
The name of that band is not known, but one of the band members, well, his name was Maurice.
Maurice and a few of the other brothers went on to form another band. Maurice was Maurice White, and the band they formed, it was called Earth, Wind, & Fire and they have been all over the world performing their music and we still hear it today on radio, in movies, commercials and everywhere. Just think, one of their stops on their road to being internationally known was at Purdue University via the BCC.
That photo of Stokely Carmichael stirred up memories in Mrs. Z. I am so glad she called to share those memories with me so I could pass them on to each of you. We must know upon whose shoulders we stand.
Jolivette J. Anderson-Douoning
Zamora, Betty. Phone Conversation. November 3, 2013. Approx. 8:30 pm