In 1969 a group of black and Puerto Rican Students chained the gates to the campus of the City College of New York, put up posters with their demands for racial justice and inclusivity and thought the occupation might last a couple of hours.
It lasted three and a half weeks.
The protest has been almost completely lost to history until now.
The Five Demands could serve as a blueprint for how to take action, now that the Supreme Court has struck down Affirmative Action. I don’t want to tell too much about how the story unfolds because it is so exciting—it’s a real thriller. I’ll just say that many of the white students and faculty supported the protest, and the administration itself, although it was against the protest, didn’t call in the police.
It’s also a blueprint for how to make a documentary. All voices of the protesters (the men and the women!—so unusual) and of the administrators are heard. The substance of the Five Demands are also discussed in detail. The outcome was good but not perfect and they look carefully at that too.
The film makers, Andrea Weiss and Greta Schiller, have done a remarkable job of archival research. They found many of the participants, and then they let them speak for themselves.
My wife Su Friedrich showed the film to the students at Princeton. Do you know what surprised them the most about it? To see that the students back then were talking to each other.
Well, it’s a beginning.
I hope you get a chance to see it. Tickets are selling fast.