The Michigan Daily - Monday, February 23, 1998 - 7A
Big Black' Smith
speaks about poor
By Nika Schulte
Daily Staff Reporter
Twenty-seven years ago, a prison
rebellion in Attica, N.Y. brought
national attention to the poor condi-
tions prisoners face in the nation's
Frank "Big Black" Smith, a leader
of the Attica rebellion, brought the
issue back into focus for University
students at the Law Quad on Friday
night by encouraging them to get
Speaking at an event sponsored by
the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist
League, Smith informed students that
the condition of prisons affects every-
one because correctional facilities are
not isolated from the community.
Smith stressed that the most impor-
tant steps for achieving progress in
prison conditions are the initial orga-
nization and unification of people
who desire change.
"We need to get more involved in a
unified way in order to be successful.
That's what made, us successful in
1971 ," Smith said.
Smith, now a paralegal and mental
health counselor in New York, has
remained dedicated to improving
prison conditions through his contin-
ued effort to share his experience and
"If I had stopped (educating) once I
got out, I don't know where I'd be
today," Smith said. "But I made a
promise to myself, and I'm going to
Part of that promise is to make stu-
dents aware of the issue. Smith said
he doesn't expect everyone to
become involved in his cause, but he
hoped everyone at least would gain
awareness of the problems in the cor-
"You don't have to leave here and
say, 'Right on Black. Right on broth-
er,"' Smith said. "'That was a good
program and I promise you I am going
to be down with you.' You don't have
to do that.
"The only thing I want you to do is
leave here with it in your mind and in
your heart," he said. "When you get
home, go and get a mirror and look at
it and say, 'What did I get out of that?
What part applied to me?"'
LSA senior Alena Green said what
Smith discussed applied to her on
many levels. She said she came to the
event to increase her knowledge of
prison conditions and apply it to her
work with juvenile delinquents.
Green said she enjoyed hearing
Smith speak because he was an actual
source that had survived the mistreat-
ment of prisoners first-hand.
"Hearing someone that has actual
experiences is more motivation than
hearing people just talking about it,"
Green said. "It was a very positive
message and it hit home. I am greatly
affected by a lot of guys going to
By Amelia Levin
For the Daily
A panel of activist scholars from
various universities met this past
Friday to bring the University com-
munity together for research on
Co-sponsored by the Institute for
Research on Women and Gender and
the Center for Learning through
Community Service, the panel, which
included visiting professors Margo
Okasawa-Rey, Stephanie Rigor and
Cris Sullivan, discussed feminist per-
Frank "Big Black" Smith, a leader of the 1971 Attica, N.Y. prison rebellion,
talks on Friday about the poor condition of U.S. prisons at Hutchinson Hall.
prison. It verified my feelings."
LSA sophomore Aaron Stark said
Smith's first-hand experience made
his speech meaningful.
"What Big Black says has a lot of
truth to it," Stark said. "I don't think
locking more and more people up is
going to solve things, especially
since there is so much racism and
injustice inherent in the U.S. prison
Event coordinator Corey Fielder
said she hoped students would get
involved in the event.
"It's time to get out of the cafes and
off of the couches and replace running
the pavement with pounding the pave-
ment," she said.
"The community is not respond-
ing to the needs of women," said
Sullivan, a professor of ecological
psychology at Michigan State
In order to mitigate this unrespon-
siveness and reduce gender inequalities
in society, the panelists agreed, stronger
collaboration between community
activists and researchers is necessary.
The panelists' speeches focused on the
ongoing feminist goal of changing neg-
ative attitudes toward women.
"Feminism is the awareness of
inequalities of power in society and the
desire to help reduce those inequali-
ties," said Rigor, the director of the
women's studies program at the
University of Illinois.
Rigor, in accordance with the other
two panelists, said collaboration
among researchers must occur to
improve community relations. To
ensure accurate findings and prevent
misunderstandings due to a lack of
communication, research groups
should combine the "three Ts:" trust,
time and talent.
"Researchers need to develop mutual
agreements on definitions and goals
and be more conscious of others'
work," Rigor said.
Sullivan directed more attention
toward the interplay between
researchers and their local subjects.
Based on a study she conducted on
battered women and their unsup-
portive communities, she spoke
about the need to reconstruct ]an-
"It's time for a
- Prof. Margo Okasawa-Rey
San Francisco State University
how we understand social problems,"
Sullivan said. "Researchers should
refer to these women not as battered
women, but as women with abusive
Extending this topic of the percep-
tion of women in society Okasawa-A
Rey, a professor of multicultural and
women's studies at San Francisco
State University, offered new ways of
thinking about feminist issues as an
additional means of improving com-
munity-based research and public
She explained how individuals'
intersections of race, gender, class and
nationality affect their political frame-
works, drawing on her extensive
research on the behavior of U.S. mili-
tary GIs based in South Korea toward
"We need to transform the way in-
which we view others according to
our own social locations before we
can ameliorate unequal societal
structures domestically and abroad,"
"It's time for a social and econom-
ic revolution," she said.
Audience members and event coor-
dinators said they were inspired by the
"It was one of the most interesting
panels I have been to," said Stacie
Printon, a Rackham student. "I felt
that the women on the panel talked
clearly about what they felt from the
Natasha Verhage, an event coordi-
nator from the Center for Learning
through Community Service, said that
not only was the event beneficial to,
the audience, but to the panelists as.
"The support the panelists got from-
each other today, they will be able to
bring back to their specific disciplines, -
said Verhage, an RC senior.
ntinued from Page 1A
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