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“Loud as a swelling sea” — Yvonne Son on black research, history

The news is an excerpt from WYSO’s series “Loud As the Rolling Sea,” which, in collaboration with 91.3-FM WYSO’s Eichelberger Center for Community Voices, preserves and emphasizes voices from the African-American generation of civil rights activist Yellow Springs. It is open to the public. Of their day.

Community Voices producer Venita Kelly interviewed Yvonne Seon in this series and edited it with the help of community producer Mary Evans. The program is sponsored by Kevin McGruder, a historian at the University of Antioch. The transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

To listen to the interview: https://www.wyso.org/local-and-statewide-news/2021-06-23/loud-as-the-rolling-sea-dr-yvonne-seon

Yvonneson has a lifelong career as an activist and scholar. Shortly after graduating from college, she was first involved in African politics adopted by Patrice Lumumba, the first Prime Minister of Congo. When she returned to the United States in the early 1960s, the civil rights movement was at the heart of American politics.

She earned a master’s and doctoral degree in black studies from one of the first programs of its kind at the Union Institute, which is part of the University of Antioch. She married Bill Chapel and the two came to Yellow Springs in 1967. He became a professor in Antioch. She went to work in both Wilberforce and Wright.

Yvonne Son: This was my first time living in Yellow Springs, Ohio. I moved here to Yellow Springs. My ex-husband had a friend who moved here and he was very respected and it was an interracial couple. They found this to be the ideal setting. It was a place where they could be comfortable as an interracial couple. And we came and liked the community, we liked what we saw here, we liked the inventive step of the community and the inventive step of Antioch. My daughter was born shortly after arriving in Yellow Springs, and I found it to be a great place to raise a child, to raise a child. So I’m glad I raised my child here. I left before my second child was old enough to really understand this community. But I returned to Washington to live. But that was when I thought about the impact of racism on my children.

Venny Takery: Did Yellow Springs respond to your impression before you moved here? And you and your husband, you said it was a great place to raise a child. Why was Yellow Springs so great at the time?

Son: At that time, we were approaching the civil rights movement. And the people here — like you, there is a peace movement that gathers in the corner every Saturday. The sun, rain, snow, whatever the weather, they are protesting peace. Well, it was a kind of atmosphere in terms of civil rights. Yellow Springs was a clear place for the masses to support civil rights and to do what they needed to do to get them. They experienced that experience at a downtown barber shop, and it’s over. But as a result, I think people felt very much as if civil rights were what we had to do. They were very active in the civil rights movement. It was more so than when I was in Africa when they were doing civil rights. So, just to say that it was the atmosphere here, Yellow Springs was proud to have it, no quotes, liberal thinking, and the people working together, white and black, Interracial couples working together and participating in working with the community. And hardcore racism and racism, as you’ll find elsewhere, you couldn’t find it. I did, but I didn’t find much here.

Kevin McGruder: Dr. Son went to work at Wilberforce University when students were worried, and eventually set up the Boringa Center at Wright State University, a resource center for African-American students. I was invited. name. Boringa is the Lingala word for love.

Son: The center was founded by a group of students who wanted a cultural center for African Americans, a small group in Wright at the time, and they hired me to implement it. In short, the Boringa Center is the Black Cultural Resources Center at Wright State University.

Kelly: And were you the founding director?

Son: I was the founder’s director and it was one of the first kind in the country.

Kelly: What year was 1970?

Son: It started in the fall of 1970.

Kelly: What was the difference between these two universities after going from Wilberforce to Wright?

Son: That’s an interesting question, and in a way humorous. What is the difference between black and white? Wilberforce is traditionally an African-American university. Well, for one thing, Wilberforce’s black students took them, regardless of their background or level of preparation. As a result, part of Wilberforce’s curriculum included courses that helped students speed up college. And it was necessary. In the Light State, they admit all students to the same criteria, and as a result, the students were much better prepared, or at least they had to function immediately and they had to adapt. I didn’t have an immediate set of courses to help. That was the biggest difference. The level of preparation and the level of expectation in terms of what those students were expected to do. One of the things I found was that I had to expect more at Wilberforce. I had to expect them to be able to do the job. But I realized that I had to teach them to work too so that they could live up to their expectations. And that happened. There were some talented students who were graduates of Wilberforce University at the time, and although there were no special programs in Wright, expectations for their ability to succeed were much lower.

Kelly: So why did you need a Boringa Center in Wright?

Son: That is the feeling of the students. Instead of looking like other communities, they need to address conscious awareness, self-awareness, self-confidence, understand African culture, and build a center to look at it from a different perspective. I felt that. , As less. Their cultural heritage was not slavery. Their cultural heritage was Africa. And I think that was an important part of why we had a center and why we needed it. When I was designing the center together in the fall of 1970, I remember thinking about what the center would be like and how to attract people. What does it do? While we were working on that vision, a student newspaper came out and said they were against the Black Cultural Center. Why did they need a lounge and white students didn’t have a lounge? Well, they said it was a lounge, and they saw no purpose there. They didn’t understand the vision we had, so to speak, the radar of Wright State University to map African culture.

McGruder: Dr. Son has lived in Washington, DC for many years with three children, Felicia, William, and Dave Chappelle. But she returned to Yellow Springs a few years ago to enjoy being her grandmother.

Kelly: So now you have grandchildren there. They live in this area, this arena. What do you tell them as a child today? Do you live in this society, live in this Yellow Springs, live in this dynamic area?

Son: I tell them to confront what they believe. I tell them never give up, believe in themselves, and believe that they can do whatever they decide to do. That is the way we were taught. And that’s why racism and the impact of racism on me was limited just because I knew who I was. And part of knowing who I am is that part — in other words — it’s important to know who you are and that you can do anything and believe in yourself. It’s a feeling. That feeling led me to study blacks and taught me how to study blacks. And I’m very convinced that it’s an important part of the education of all American students, not just black students. It’s important to them because they need to understand where they came from, believe in themselves, and have a history of being proud. But for everyone else in America, I understand that there is an African-American history, that it goes beyond slavery, that it is before slavery, and that it has nothing to do with slavery. It is important to do. We came from a land with an early civilization. The earliest civilizations in the world can come from the African continent. And the math genius, the engineering genius, and the architectural genius all came from areas such as biology, the science of biology, and the understanding of plants and plant life. All of these were part of the African continent before slavery, and in fact before Europe was developed.
So I think it is important for all of us to study Africa. Because if you try to overcome the racism of Africa, the racism of Africans, the legacy of American slavery that Africans felt they weren’t, after slavery, racism and Jim Whatever provides the world with all the myths that have emerged during Crow and from that era. In order for America to overcome that idea, everyone needs to be conscious of overcoming that idea.

Kelly: I think it’s a really great note to finish the interview. And thanks to Dr. Yvonne Son for providing your voice to the WYSO Community Voices Oral History Project. thank you very much.

Son: thank you very much. you’re welcome. Thank you for calling.

This project is funded by the Yellow Springs Community Foundation, Yellow Springs Brewery, and Rick and Christensen, Re / Max Victory, and Yellow Springs affiliates.

“Loud as a swelling sea” — Yvonne Son on black research, history

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