Report from UC Davis: Celebration of the UCD Cross Cultural Center and the New Police Accountability Board

Last night I attended a gala to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Cross Cultural Center at UC Davis. The program had cultural performances, speeches, dinner, and  keynote presentations by the powerhouse goddess Kim Katrin Milan and Dr. Cornel West.

Both of these speeches were memorable. Look up Kim Katrin Milan, watch her videos, tweet her, invite her. She is dynamic and unique — it will blow you away. Cornel West – I am immersed in the Land of Dr. West these days and really digging it. I will try to keep up and catch up and inter-relate. He is very active and has a fire for life and love that is very contagious.

The former CCC directors were in attendance, sharing their experiences at the CCC, as well as outgoing director Michael Baissa (who is now moving to Sierra College, Rocklin, CA). 2015-05-30 16.46.23 Now housed in a large, modern Student Center with a staff of 50, and servicing students of many cultures and ethnicities, it was created as a result of a hunger strike by UCD students. This action in 1990 by four brave students secured a cross cultural space on campus by 1992. The CCC has always been a resource for students of color, and has sponsored programs on campus to educate about diversity and allyship, intercultural programs, and operated as a safe space for students to study, socialize and engage in career mentorship through internships, project leadership and organizing on campus.

CCC was an integral part of my PhD program at UC Davis, as I participated in two of their ongoing trainings – REACH retreat and Peer Advisors. I have said many times that the REACH Retreat was the best thing I did at UC Davis, and it’s absolutely true. I learned a lot from them about group facilitation (and was able to hone my skills on community education, a process I first learned in Zimbabwe). I hope to continue to support their work for many years to come. 

The UC Davis CCC has been a ground-breaking model for many schools, with over 25 years of experience as a dedicated space with full-time staff and students. Many former directors have gone on to other institutions to replicate this model — chancellor of LA Community Colleges, dean of Cosumnes River College, and Cross Cultural Center Directors of other CSU and UC campuses.

I think the story of the CCC is a really incredible testament to the power of student organizing. Where there are students, there be protests, but sometimes, in our shifting between semesters and graduating classes, it is difficult to see how some of these protests may have lasting effects upon our institutions, and indeed, for generations of students to come. CCC is really a success story, and we could really feel that energy last night, celebrating a long 25-year journey to make the four hunger striking students’ dream come alive year after year.

[OK, so I pasted in the photos first, and I am having trouble putting text in between them and am running to another celebration right now, so I don’t have time to fix fancy. I will just put the rest of the text here.]

I believe we should promote the idea of community centers in general, something which I was able to learn about in Chile, where many of the old buildings of the dictatorship were transformed into incredibly vibrant centers for the arts and community resources. I was lucky to meet a community organizer who is also a PhD student in Madison in Chile, and learned a lot about community centers there. It’s a really incredible way to change a community, and this was something that the Occupy movement could have benefited from more. When the Occupy movement began in Spain, this is one of the first things that they did. They took their movement inside to community spaces, and started real organizing from there. We learned this from two Spaniards who were in town with their van, who we met at the farmer’s market and brought home for the night. More of the community center model occurred in Oakland with the Oakland Commune which is a branch of the main Occupy movement there. This was one of the tragedies of Occupy, how the police bulldozed everything including the free libraries. Though we do know the spirit of Occupy lives on in countless people’s heart and minds and will be a big part of the sustainable transformation we are undergoing. I really believe in community centers. Both on college campuses and in our communities. Bring art and knowledge to the people. Build community centers. David Byrne also wrote about the importance of public spaces (Buenos Aires) in his book Bicycle Diaries.

A few students at my table in the Black Student Union told me about the newly-formed Davis Police Accountability Board. This process evolved out of the pepper spray incident at UCD. I was not on campus the day of the pepper spray, but I did take my students to the Occupy Davis on campus that was set up the night before. There were many ensuing discussions, town halls and legislative hearings. I prepared a statement for the legislature and a 50-page report on police brutality against student protesters which I had witnessed first-hand through my observations of the Berkeley Tree Sit and other events as well as other research and participation in the Stop Fee Hike movement. Case in point- The UC Davis Police Accountability Board seems to be a good model, or at least something to look into, as people in Black Lives Matter begin to tackle police brutality and mass incarceration. The students I met yesterday said that the Black Student union has presented the PAB with a resolution, which they accepted, to wear body cameras. This applies to campus cops, but they have also held workshops with Davis and Sacramento Police Departments. They did say that not all of the officers were happy to be there, but that students have been active in organizing these workshops with police and are continuing to push for them.

Examples of complaints (to the PAB)

  • Improper arrest, search, seizure, or stop
  • Improper or inadequate investigation
  • Improper detention procedure
  • Improper police procedures
  • Excessive force
  • Discrimination
  • Harassment
  • Discourtesy

The students said they felt that the PAB is unique to Davis, and it is a committee external to the campus police that is composed of (and there may be more, this is just what I got): graduate student rep, ASUCD representative, medical school rep, law school rep and other non-police-affiliated people. The video recordings for Davis campus cops are located in the cloud, so they cannot be tampered with, and the PAB can review these tapes for any situations or offenses that come up.

Coming after what we saw with super-aggressive policing of student protests at UC and CSU campuses during the fee hike protests and Occupy, this felt very good to hear. I was encouraged by these students who have pressed onwards with police accountability, and more research needs to be done on their work.

Press release “Introducing our new Police Accountability Board here:

It is the first of its kind on a U.S. college campus: the UC Davis Police Accountability Board, a civilian panel of students, faculty and staff.

Another thorough article: here. {That is all the info I have got for now, so I have pasted in some weblinks above for further research. It seems like a very serious effort that folks should look into for any organizing related to police brutality and accountability issues.} 2015-05-30 17.38.11 2015-05-30 17.55.23 2015-05-30 19.33.05 2015-05-30 19.32.53

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