July 10, 2019

MEMORANDUM

To: Mike Schill, President

From: R. Kevin Marbury, on behalf of the BCC Naming Committee

RE: Black Cultural Center Naming Recommendations

On behalf of the members of the Black Cultural Center (BCC) Naming Committee, thank you for the opportunity to be a part of this important process. Honoring the importance of this transformational addition to the University, Eugene/Springfield and Oregon communities, the committee took great care in their approach, and believe the people for whom we are submitting are most worthy of your consideration in choosing a name for the Black Cultural Center. 

A total of 21 people were suggested by students, alumni, faculty, employees, and community members. Of these, the committee first narrowed this list to five individuals who met the base-level criteria for your consideration. As a reminder, the committee’s work was guided by the applicable criteria set forth in UO Policy IV.07.02, as well as the specific criteria you asked us to use in our consideration of the nominees:

  • An individual who has made significant contributions in service, support or honor to the University of Oregon or to the State of Oregon;
  • An individual who has an extraordinary record of leadership and commitment to advancing justice and equity for black people in Oregon;
  • An individual who himself or herself demonstrated evidence of overcoming oppression and discrimination;
  • An individual who strongly advocated for the pursuit of knowledge and advancement of higher education;
  • An individual whose own work has led to an inclusive and equitable University of Oregon campus; 
  • An individual whose work has led to achievements of extraordinary and lasting distinction; and, 
  • An individual who has helped black students and/or community members achieve success in higher education and the pursuit of careers. 

The information submitted about each nominee, which varied widely in terms of depth and breadth, was shared with each committee member, to allow time for reflection and independent reviews. At our subsequent meeting, the committee engaged in thoughtful discussion about each of the individuals who met the established criteria, and identified those most deserving of additional consideration. 

Through an iterative process, we ultimately narrowed down the list to two final individuals. This was not an easy task, nor one we took lightly. We believe these two individuals are the best candidates from those nominated by our community. 

We respectfully submit the following names of two individuals for consideration as the namesake of the Black Cultural Center. A brief summary of each is below, as well as the information submitted during the nomination process. Should you desire, I am happy to discuss them further, in person. 

DERRICK BELL

Derrick Bell (1930-2011) was dean of the University of Oregon School of Law for five years, beginning in 1980. As a professor of law at Harvard University in the mid-1970s, he established a field of study known as “critical race theory.” When Bell resigned his position at the UO, he said it was due to the school’s failure to grant tenure to an Asian female professor. He returned to Harvard Law School in the fall of 1986, but left in 1990 to protest the lack of a black female professor within that school. While on leave from Harvard, he became a full-time visiting professor at NYU’s School of Law. Bell was a published author and noted lecturer on critical race theory and civil rights. More recently he made national headlines as a friend to and former professor of Barack Obama. The UO’s Knight Law School has a speaker series named in Bell’s honor. 

LYLLYE REYNOLDS PARKER

Lyllye Reynolds Parker was born in Eugene in 1946 and was a member of the first graduating class of Henry D. Sheldon High School. She attended Western Beauty College after high school and was the first licensed cosmetologist in Eugene, at a time when it was illegal to cut black hair in beauty shops in the 1960’s. Lyllye started her social justice work while in high school, being actively involved with the Civil Rights movement here. She was vice president of the local Student Non-violence Committee, an organization founded by Stokely Carmichael, an internationally known Civil Rights Advocate. She earned her Bachelor’s of Art Degree in Sociology from the University of Oregon in 1991. Parker worked at UO as an academic advisor in the Office of Multicultural Academic Success for 17 years, until she retired. She has served on multiple advisory committees. Parker also serves on the board of a local nonprofit, the League of United Latin American Citizens, where she is the honorary chair of their Anti-Racial Profiling Committee. The UO’s Women’s Center hosts an annual “Lyllye B. Parker Womxn of Color Speaker Series” to bring female speakers of color to campus. 

After we arrived at our two final nominees, I invited members of the committee to send me any additional comments they had to support the nominees we are putting forward for your consideration: 

Lyllye Parker

  • I am in strong support of Lyllye Parker's nomination due to a few reasons. Her family's impact on Oregon and their perseverance is important to acknowledge along with her personal contributions to the UO community. Although I did not have the honor of meeting her while on campus, all the examples of Ms. Parker's impact on many students were moving. It would be amazing to honor someone who has had a strong influence on many people still on campus here today and not to forget honoring a black woman is extremely groundbreaking. While we are in a progressive society, black women specifically continue to be the most degraded and disregarded demographic and it is empowering for a black woman like myself to see a strong black woman being publicly recognized, especially on a predominantly white campus.
  • …Mrs. Parker also established the UO Reach for Success program, a program that aims to give underrepresented middle school students an opportunity to spend a day at the UO and interact with professors, students, etc.
  • Mrs. Parkers work can and has been felt by generation of students in the state of Oregon. Every time one thinks of, hears about and/or attends BWA and Reach for Success, they can experience/see a tangible example of Mrs. Parker’s success and lasting legacy. Mrs. Parker, an individual who was illegally born at a Eugene hospital and initially was denied admissions to the UO, is an epitome of a resiliency and perseverance.
  • It is my hope that the Black Cultural Center will be a reminder to students, especially, African-American students, that Mrs. Parker is an individual that overcame racial discrimination as a child in Eugene as well as discrimination at the University of Oregon. She is an example that all things are possible to be accomplished at our university.
  • In addition to the tangible programs that she has helped build at the UO, nearly two decades of academic advising to students, Mrs. Parker was a steadfast supporter for minority populations, especially the black community in Oregon and in Eugene, specifically. She has worked with/supported community organizations such as the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and was appointed (by Lane County Commissions) as a board member of the Lane County Commission for the Advancement of Human Rights, a program that was established to monitor civil rights abuses and advocate for those seeking guidance…
  • …Lyllye Parker rated highly on all the criteria in the rubric. Moreover, as discussions continued in the committee meeting, even more merits to their nomination surfaced. The longstanding with the city of Eugene, the familial impact on the Eugene black community, the nominee’s longstanding relationship with the university as a student, alumnus and employee in addition to their effects on supporting, guiding and inspiring diverse student bodies more generally and black students at the university of seems to fit in step with the outlined requirements. That local representation and impact and bridging with campus and city life is representative of the goals of the center…

Derrick Bell 

  • …Derrick Bell, too had many of the requirements listed in the rubric. Has a national profile while having a robust local connection to the university as a Faculty member at the institution. Illustrated the strong ethical considerations that are tied to the creation and dedication of this center as well.

In addition to providing their feedback on the two final names, the committee wished to articulate a few, additional key points and issues that arose during our work. First and foremost, the selection of the two individuals should not be construed as a vote against any of the other nominees. There were a number of intriguing, compelling, courageous, fascinating, and inspiring people suggested for his honor, including former UO students, employees, and professors; professional athletes and Olympians; politicians and civil rights activists; national thought leaders; and people who were among the first blacks to settle in local communities within a state whose politics were openly hostile to them.

We also discussed some of the natural tensions that arise from the criteria. For example, some individuals may have had more modest histories but were inextricably linked to the state, the UO, or both, while others had impacts on a grander scale, but were less engrained in the fabric of Oregon. While length of time connecting someone to Oregon or the UO may vary, we believe it is more important to consider what that time meant in terms relative to what they accomplished, overcame, or created. We raise this issue to point out that direct one-to-one comparisons were often difficult, not to opine on the merits of one over another. 

Further, we discussed the tremendous opportunity this naming provides to tell a story to future generations—to connect the past with the future through more than just a sign on a map, but through an understanding of that individual’s lasting legacy and impact. Combined with the transformational impact that this new space will have to our community, this makes the BCC naming process particularly important for the University of Oregon.

The lasting legacy of some of the nominees—often along similar paths—were evidenced by their footsteps as individuals who broke barriers and succeeded amid oppression. For others, their legacy was grounded in contributions towards intellectual or societal change, such as the creation of knowledge or platforms for activism. Finally, the legacy of still others showed their commitment to improving the lives of those they encountered on their life journeys. 

On behalf of the committee, thank you, again, for this opportunity and for your consideration.