Barbara Smith and Naomi Jaffe To Give Alternative Radical Commencement May 28th

by Love and Rage

In the age of pandemics, everything is off-kilter. For college students who had hopes of walking across stage and receiving their diplomas during graduation ceremonies, those plans were dashed. While college administrations across the US have looked for alternative celebrations, student activists with the organization Students Organizing Mutual Aid and Defense (SO MAD) have created their own alternative commencement to these alternatives open to students as well as to the broader public.

SO MAD formed as a mutual aid and action network in Vermont during the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. Students from dozens of campuses, and not just in Vermont, are involved with this group. They have been organizing around the material needs of students as well as around issues connected to the cost of tuition and student housing. Knowing that there was a desire for a commencement celebration and a deeper sense of community and togetherness from other students, SO MAD activists decided to create a commencement celebration and discussion that spoke very directly to the needs and interests of students during these precarious times. Former Students for a Democratic Society activist and member of the Weather Underground Naomi Jaffe as well as co-founder of the revolutionary Black feminist Combahee River Collective Barbara Smith will be the two speakers for the event.

On Thursday, May 28 from 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM EST, the alternative commencement will take place online. It is dubbed “We Who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest: A Radical Commencement Discussion with Naomi Jaffe and Barbara Smith.” The quote is taken from the radical Black Freedom fighter and cofounder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Ella Baker. Anyone interested in the event must register online. SO MAD released the information below on the facebook page for the Bennington College Student Union.

TO: The Class of 2020, as well as displaced and evicted students and non-students, uninsured students, students made jobless, students for whom pre-existing precarity has been heightened by COVID-19; and their families, friends, fellow workers, organizers and comrades

Students Organizing Mutual Aid and Defense (SO MAD) is honored to invite you to a RADICAL COMMENCEMENT CONVERSATION at 7pm-8pm EST/ 4pm-5pm PST on May 28th with lifelong activists Naomi Jaffe, who organized as a student in the late 1960s as a part of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Weather Underground, and now works with Capital Area Against Mass Incarceration (CAAMI), and Barbara Smith, co-founder of the Combahee River Collective and Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press. Join us for an interactive conversation with story-telling from Naomi and Barbara about how global political contexts as well as personal circumstances and choices have shaped their trajectories as activists, and an extended 30 minute participant discussion moderated by Sarah Fadem (they/them), who works with the Bennington College Student Union, about graduating college, and fighting for a lifetime.

Registration is required for the event. Please follow this link to fill out a short form: https://tinyurl.com/2020RadCommencement.

“We who believe in freedom cannot rest” – Ella Baker

Sign-up for updates from SO MAD: https://tinyurl.com/SOMADSignUp

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