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September 28, 2001 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2001-09-28

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12A - The Michigan Daily - Friday, September 28, 2001









S, c{ rv

BAMN member
Luke Massie leads
an anti-war rally on
the Diag last week.
Massie is one of
the most prominent
members of BAMN
at the University,
although he Is not
a student here.

It's hard to avoid noticing this group on campus, but few people have
delved into the organization's history and political ties to find out:



By Anna Clark
Daily Staff Reporter

You've seen them making fiery speeches on
the Diag. They pass petitions through your histo-
ry lecture. They knock on your door at night and
you can't go outside without facing their brightly
colored posters plastered on the kiosks, urging
you to join "the new civil rights movement."
Members of the Coalition to Defend Affirma-
tive Action and Integration and Fight for Equali-
ty By Any Means Necessary - better known
simply as BAMN - have raised themselves to
the forefront of today's biggest issues, with their
anti-war platform currently earning them the
most attention. And BAMN's presence isn't lim-
ited to Ann Arbor - it has successfully built
itself into not only one of the most visible and
vocal advocacy groups on the University's cam-
pus, but across the nation as well.
BAMN's high profile has attracted proportion-
ally high speculation, often portraying the group
as a front for the Detroit-based Revolutionary
Workers League or describing it as a cult.
BAMN says it is simply dedicated to preserv-
ing affirmative action policies, both here at the
University and nationwide. Luke Massie, a
founder and national organizer of BAMN, said
anyone who criticizes society as strongly as
BAMN will inevitably be criticized itself.
"From our standpoint, affirmative action is
designed to offset the structural inequalities in
society," Massie said. Although he is one of the
most active members of the University's BAMN
chapter, Massie has never been a student here.
"persona fy ihitenge any .f our
dtactos any tm to a uc deat."
- Luke Massie
BAMN member
Hist oy
BAMN originated in Berkeley, Calif., in 1995
as the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action
By Any Means Necessary in response to Propo-
sition 209, a statewide initiative banning affirma-
tive action in employment and higher education.
Massie said BAMN was "partially initiated by
the RWL."
"The Revolutionary Worker's League is a
Trotskyist organization of which I'm a member,"
Massie said. "We are proud to be part of a whole
lot of struggles and to have played a role in the
founding of BAMN."
The RWL describes itself on its website as a
"U.S. sympathizing section of the International
Trotskyist Committee." The RWL website is
linked to BAMN's website.
But Rackham student Jessica Curtin, a
BAMN founder and RWL member, said the
political ideologies of BAMN members have
never been hidden.
"Yeah, some of us are socialist," Curtin said at
this week's meeting of the Michigan Student
Assembly, on which she is a representative elect-
ed on the Defend Affirmative Action Party tick-
et. "Anybody who actually knows us or talks to
us knows it's not a big secret."
Massie said BAMN was formed separate from
the RWL to attract a broader membership.
"Many people who support aflirmative action
are not ready to sign on to entirely change our
social order," Massie said.
BAMN spread to Ann Arbor in mid-1997, just
before the University was hit with lawsuits chal-
lenging the race-sensitive admissions policies of
the Law School and the College of Literature,
Science and the Arts.
Since then, the group has advocated a militant
approach to preserving affirmative action.
Massie defined "militant" as fighting actively,
including rallies, protests, panels, speeches, fly-
ers and petitions.
"BAMN recognized from the start the necessi-
ty of building a mass movement to move society
forward rather than backward," Massie said.
Some University students have publicly
labeled BAMN a front for the RWL, saying RWL
members use BAMN to introduce members to
their socialist agenda and to draw media attention
to their cause. That a group of core RWL mem-
bers, including Massie, initiated several other dis-
sident groups fuels the suspicion that BAMN is
simply one of many groups designed to ultimate-

present themselves as members of the RWL,"
Washington said.
Washington represents many of the groups ini-
tiated by the core RWL members, including
BAMN, the National Women's Rights Organiz-
ing Committee and Justice for Malice Green.
"I generally support their activities and their
aims and objectives; I represent them and am
proud to do so," Washington was quoted as say-
ing in a 1998 Crain's Detroit Business article.
Working with Washington is Luke Massie's
older sister, Miranda, the lead counsel for the
intervening defense.
Luke Massie said BAMN members who are
socialists do not keep a hidden agenda. He added
that speculation about it equates to slander that
minimizes BAMN's purpose.
"I personally challenge any of our detractors
any time to a public debate," Massie said "If
they're not willing to do that, come up and ask
me directly. How do I be less secret?"
LSA junior David Lempert, a former BAMN
member and current member of the newly
formed group Students Supporting Affirmative
Action, said BAMN's purpose gets lost in the
group's controlled atmosphere.
"Affirmative action is very important to me,"
Lempert said at this week's MSA meeting. "But I
didn't want to be called repeatedly at 3 a.m. I
didn't want to be told to go to Detroit and sit in a
hot room for 12 hours." He was referring to
BAMN's efforts to create a significant student
presence at the University lawsuit hearings.
But Massie said the time members put into the
cause is done so freely. "A lot of people who've
stepped forward are very dedicated and are will-
ing to spend a good deal of time," he said.
RC freshmen Emily Bate, who attended her
first BAMN meeting two weeks ago, said the
group asked for dedication but nothing extreme.
"They really emphasized committing any time
you can to getting signatures on petitions and
being a presence at MSA meetings so they know
there are people who support what BAMN's
doing," Bate said.
Bate said she left the meeting impressed with
the group's knowledge and enthusiasm. "I had an
amazing experience. Here are people doing
something right now that will affect the future of
civil rights."
LSA junior Erin Makey, another new BAMN
member, said she felt the group's meetings are
fair and unbiased. "It's run democratically," she
said. "Everybody gets a vote"
Structurally, BAMN is composed of national
organizers and volunteers, Massie said. He'added
that, contrary to rumors, nobody gets paid.
Massie said he volunteers 60 hours a week for
BAMN but is able to live off an inheritance and
occasional work as an investigator for Scheff &
BAMN's funding comes through member and
community donations, Massie said. Although
Massie could not estimate how much BAMN
makes through donations, he noted an increase in
the past year and a half because of the lawsuits
against the University.
Beyond financial support, BAMN regularly
boasts a long list of endorsements. While many
organizations listed as supporters include the
RWL, NWROC and other groups-BAMN lead-
ers are associated with, it also includes promi-
nent campus and national groups, including the
Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.
But one notable endorser named by BAMN

2001, during a rally in memory of Martin
s use of race in admissions.
"She laughed and said 'Oh you're not going to
win,"' Kiblawi said. "'We had you there just so
we could get votes for Agnes."' Aleobua was
also running for MSA on the DAAP ticket.
"They were just using me, a Muslim and an
Arab, so I could get the Muslim and Arab stu-
dents to vote for Agnes," Kiblawi said.

BAMN member Agnes Aleobua speaks on the steps of the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library on Jan. 16,
Luther King, Jr. Aleobua testified on the benefits of diversity in the lawsuits challenging the University'

denied it ever offered support. The National Edu-
cation Association was listed as a supporter for a
BAMN-sponsored event last year, and Massie
confirmed the group as an official endorser..
But Karen Schulz, spokeswoman for the
Michigan Education Association, said the
teacher's union has never supported the group on
any level."The MEA has not voted in any way to
officially endorse or support this specialty
group," Schulz said. "The NEA also has not
endorsed this group."
As far as campus support goes, BAMN is con-
The Black Student Union, one of the most
prominent cultural organizations on campus,
vehemently opposes them, said BSU spokes-
woman Panther McAllister, an LSA senior.
"I wouldn't say they're Public Enemy Number
One, but they're pretty high up there," McAllister
said. "The main reason is because they try to sti-
fle our voices as black students on campus."
McAllister said she believes BAMN has tried
to sabotage BSU. Two years ago, she said,
BAMN members Erika Dowdell and Agnes Ale-
obua attended meetings as "spies to take over our
As a result, Dowdell and Aleobua were eject-

ed from BSU. But McAllister publicly invited
them back to BSU at this week's MSA meeting.
"It hurt me that black women were kicked out
like that," McAllister said.
But that does not mitigate her frustration with
"Freshmen are told to stay away from our
organization," McAllister said of BAMN.
"We've had to kick members of the RWL out of
our meetings. They've called us every negative
thing you could call us."
Massie said BAMN is not opposed to BSU or
any other group. Still, he criticized BSU for it's
lack of effort concerning affirmative action. He
specifically noted BSU's disruption of a BAMN
rally on the Diag on Martin Luther King Jr. Day
last year - the day before the Law School case
opened in the U.S. District Court in Detroit.
During the rally, BSU separated from the
crowd, carrying signs that said affirmative action
was their issue, not BAMN's.
"They've done nothing before and nothing
since to defend affirmative action," Massie said.
"On that critical day, they decided to hurt affir-
mative action."
Many students share BAMN's support for affir-
mative action but object both to its methods and
the fact that many BAMN leaders are not Univer-
sity students. Some responded this week by form-
ing Students Supporting Affirmative Action.
"The vast majority of people that we've talked
to have been overjoyed that there's finally a stu-
dent pro-affirmative action group," said LSA
junior Michael Simon, an SSAA founder. "Many
feel very strongly on the issue but were turned
off by BAMN's extremism."
LSA senior Steve Lund said it is not BAMN's
ideology he opposes so much as how the group
expresses its opinions. He recalled a psychology
class last semester during which BAMN spoke
for 90 minutes of the two-hour lecture. "I have a
big problem with them taking up class time,"
Lund said. "Of course they have a right to be
heard, but not when students are trying to learn."
DA~ A I m ANT'cr,..,,-,r,,is cnkn r~fi-Aerf tei



Just as affirmative action is an issue at many
colleges, BAMN is also a presence on other
In May, the University of California Board of
Regents reversed the college's ban on affirmative
action admissions, thus extinguishing the spark
that ignited BAMN in the first place. Massie said
this was a direct result of BAMN's influence.
"It was an absolutely historic step under pres-
sure of a growing mass movement," Massie said.
But Kevin Nguyen, executive director of the
American Civil Rights Institute, which is chaired
by UC Regent Ward Connerly, said BAMN was
not behind the switch.
"They were certainly a presence, but they can-
not claim credit for anything," Nguyen said.
"They're just a persistent, annoying presence to
regents on both sides of the preferences issue." I
Connerly "doesn't care one iota what BAMN
thinks because they don't represent the majority
of the students," he said. "The regents recognize
BAMN as an illegitimate student group, unlike
the University of California Student Association."
Kenny Burch, a graduate student at UC-San
Diego and member of UCSA, said the group
coordinated with others to fight for affirmative
action in California. BAMN repeatedly disrupted
their efforts, Burch said. Burch noted a meeting
last March between UCSA members and UC
recyr'ntc_ wxhich BAM4N interrunted by shouting

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