It’s been 45 years since the longest campus strike in U.S. History took place at SF State and to this day it remains an honored, historical University event.
Monday, Dec. 2, Catherine Powell, director of the Labor Archives and Research Center (LARC) and exhibition curator, hosted the opening ceremony for the exhibit, “Striking Images: San Francisco State 1968.”
Located in the LARC on the fourth floor of the J. Paul Leonard Library, the exhibition featured prominent moments of student unrest at SF State over national issues, such as racial justice and the Vietnam War. This resulted in a student and faculty strike from November 1968 to March 1969 at the University and inspired the establishment of the Africana Studies Department and the first College of Ethnic Studies.
The gallery projected news footage from the time of the strike recorded by local news stations such as CBS5-KPIX and KQED. The opening also included a tour of the gallery to view images of the strike. Among the the crowd were strike veterans, long-time supporters of the school, professors, students and Phiz Mezey, the 88-year-old photographer featured in the exhibit.
“I think this is a wonderful presentation of the argument and the people involved,” said Mezey of the exhibit. “It’s great that they are having a panel discussion with the strike veterans as part of the ceremony as well, it is a great opportunity for students to learn about what was going on,” Mezey said.
Strike veterans Clarence Thomas, Roger Alvarado and Laureen Chew shared their individual experiences in a panel about how they got involved with the strike of 1968 and explained how they were able to accomplish their goals.
“The panel I thought was really exceptional because they talked about what got them involved and what was going on in their lives at the time,” said Betsy Jo Carleton, an employee at SF State’s Capital Planning in Design and Construction and also wife of strike veteran Alvarado. “These people didn’t just go out there to be crazy, they believed in several causes,” Carleton said.
The panel, which was moderated by Daniel Gonzalez, included Laureen Chew who later became an Associate Dean at the University. She spoke about her life in Chinatown and her involvement with the Third World Liberation Front (TWLF). Clarence Thomas spoke for a few minutes about his association with the Black Student Union and the civil rights issues that surround him in the 60s. Roger Alvarado explained how he was a worker for most of his life and then received the opportunity to attend SF State for his higher education.
“To see my friends speak today, it is emotional as they are all like extended family here,” said Raymond Tompkins, former president of the Black Student Union after the strike. “It wasn’t about us back then, but it was about who comes behind us, like the students today,” Tompkins said.
The exhibit runs Monday through Friday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. until December 20 at the Labor Archives and Research Center in the J. Paul Leonard Library at SF State.