Remembering the 1968 Strike: Alumnus Danny Glover talks about strike
November 5, 2008 8:52 AM
Before becoming a big-name Hollywood actor, Danny Glover was a student at SF State who was involved in the 1968 protests and creation of the College of Ethnic Studies.
An active member of the Black Student Union at the time, Glover said he worked fervently through adversity and intimidation to establish the first-of-its-kind Black Studies department.
Now 40 years later, lasting impressions of the strike have resulted in a life-long involvement in political activism and advocacy for multiethnic academics, said the now 62-year-old Glover.
During his time at SF State, Glover was engaged in the student-led strike that struggled for racial equality and creation of an academic department solely devoted to third world studies.
Despite the harsh tactics police employed to quell student protesters, his strongest memories of the time revolve around the BSU organizing and coming together for a united cause despite unyielding adversity, Glover said.
“For me, the signature of the protests was the strategic meetings and planning sessions that the BSU held,” Glover said. “I remember working ’round the clock with other BSU members, discussing different tactics and methods that we should undertake to ensure all our efforts were not in vain.”
Glover said in order to reach the goals outlined by the BSU, active members of the strike led rallies and demonstrations on campus with the intention of disrupting classes and university life.
“The organizing was very widespread and broad-based,” said Benjamin Stewart, chairman of the BSU during the time of the strike. “We were trying to establish demands and tell administrators that if we don’t get what we want we are shutting the school down.”
“We decided that if we wanted to succeed, we would have to organize in a fashion that would truly disrupt the university,” Glover added.
When protestors clashed with police, it often resulted in fierce and violent conflict, with several students ending up in prison or a hospital.
Because many of the memories Glover has of the turbulent times are dark and convoluted, he said he doesn’t wish to revisit those particular sections of his personal history.
Police used tear gas and heavy batons to suppress many of the students that were protesting, said Dan Gonzalez, a student involved the protests and current associate professors of Asian American studies. “It got extremely violent.”
“I was part of one of the mass student arrests,” Glover said. “But honestly, it’s been 40 years since those days, and I don’t want to think about those violent times.”
“The police did overreact, but we organized around their reaction,” Stewart said. “The campus was a stage for confrontation.”
Despite the forceful involvement of police, Glover and his fellow BSU members continued to meet—determined to see the strike and the creation of the College of Ethnic Studies through.
“Our work ethic couldn’t be questioned,” Glover said. “We established a methodology 24-7. We studied a lot and we read a lot.”
“That experience was invaluable,” he added.
Due to the intensely well rounded approach the protestors employed, five months into the strike, Stewart said SF State compromised with students and met many of the demands of the BSU.
“What we did had never been done,” Glover said. “Up until that date no one had put a freeze on a university the way we did.”
Forty years later, the legacy of the student protests and the creation of the College of Ethnic Studies still stick out in Glover’s mind as a crucial moment and turning point for SF State.
“We didn’t really know it at the time,” Glover said. “But what we were doing at the time was quite significant in historical context.”
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