Nori Mandell: I didn’t know until after the course, there was a woman who signed up for the EXCO class who was very unlikely to do so; her race, her personality, just everything. I couldn’t imagine why, but I was delighted to have her. And at the end of the course, she wrote me a very long letter explaining that this course had been functional for her. She went on to explain that she had harassed a gay couple at the ‘sco and had gone before some kind of board, and the punishment or her retribution or whatever was for her to take this class. She wrote this beautiful letter saying she had started out with the sense that it would be horrible and at the end she understood much better. This was a very conservative Black woman that said she was much more understanding because she was Black and understood some of what gays and lesbians go through. I don’t know whose idea that was; her attendance was not perfect, but that was a very beautiful thing.
Terry Maroney: What you’re bringing up makes me think of a whole aspect of my time as a lesbian at Oberlin that really hasn’t been brought up yet. I was also an active member of the Latino student organization. There probably still is, but at that time there was a big split going on with the Union because of the perception that the Union was just for white gay males. Specifically, a place to be which it wasn’t. They always made a big effort to have a female and male co-chairs, but the involvement of lesbians and gay men and women of color was always kind of up and down.
I remember one social at the beginning of my senior year that was the most diverse thing that the Union ever put on. I don’t know why it turned out that way. It was just a big beginning-of-the-year social and everybody came to hang out, but after that people also became involved in separate groups. The lesbians of color group, ZAMI, was happening. I actually went to a meeting to find out what was going on, but that route sort of took off and there was a gay-bisexual men-of-color group going on that some people were very involved in. It was strange, because there was a whole crowd of us that were traveling between groups. Myself and another lesbian and another gay man were also pretty actively involved in LaUnion that year. It was an accepting kind of place, but when you are in it, you’re very concentrated. This is where you’re supposed to be Latino, and then you’re supposed to be gay over here, and it was very hard to integrate those things.
Something that happened my senior year is Women’s Studies and Latin American Studies got together and brought Cherrie Moraga and Ana Castillo. Does anyone remember that? I guess I was the only one that was here then because that was my senior year. They were here for a week and they did a symposium. It was very hard to get into; it was one credit and you had a lottery to get into it. We didn’t go to classes; we did nothing except be in this consortium called the `Chicana Writer.’ Ana Castillo is bisexual, actually, and Cherrie Moraga, of course, is a lesbian, but every active Latina woman wanted to be in that course. Every lesbian on campus wanted to be in that course, so it turned out to be this marvelous group of people. I remember people were just clamoring to get into an office hour with Cherrie Moraga and just be in a room with this high-profile lesbian. We just went in there and poured our guts out to her. They did these marvelous readings, and it was just a huge event for us that year, for the Latino community and the lesbian community. It really brought people together in a way that hadn’t been done before; it was really inspiring.
Andy Cemelli: In 1981, I remember there being tensions between Abusua and the Gay Union. The two groups hated each other and it was intense. I ended up going out with somebody whose best friend was the girl friend of the co-chair of Abusua. Ray Davis ‘85 and I found each other in a room, totally unexpected with Denise’s cat. We just started talking and we became friends. We didn’t hang out or anything, but we knew each other, and after that I felt like the tension started to relax. I went off to San Francisco and came back. When I came back I really wanted to build what we had talked about as a rainbow coalition. I thought it would be really cool to get together all of the minority groups on campus and work together. When I came back and was co-chair, we sent out letters to LaUnion, the Women’s Center, the Men’s Center, Asian American Alliance, and Abusua. We sent letters out to all of them and it was perceived as the Gay Union telling all the other groups what they should do. We got no response, and it was really horrible. I was really upset in a lot of ways. I had no hope to run this or anything. I just thought that we had all been bitching about how the administration had been dealing with all the new groups. We all had a common agenda, and we really should pull together and yell at them all at once.
Andrew Deppe: Well, something must have happened between then and 1987, which is after we were gone. I’ll never forget being in DC for the lesbian and gay march of 1987. I was with this bunch of people from Chicago and seeing Yale with fifteen people and Harvard with twenty-five or thirty and Oberlin with almost 300 people. I was so proud. Something must have convinced people that it wasn’t that divided if they could all come. Eleven or twelve percent of the student body went to the meeting; something happened in that period.
Nori Mandell: First, there was the personal stuff, and I was opposed to anything but me finding a lover. And then it was being a lesbian, and then it sort of branched out and I remember I was active in a student organization opposed to racism. I was their networking person and I was the student representative for SCOPE. It was like my mission, this rainbow stuff. I remember planning tentative meetings for feminists of color and lesbians of color and talked about how women could get together and about how the Women’s Center didn’t want to be a white Women’s Center. There seemed to be no way to try to include people of color without them saying, “We feel like tokens invited to participate.” We got stalled where we thought we can’t plan any events without planning them together, and we didn’t have enough trust even to plan events together.
Susan Hart: It seems like just looking at the people who are here for this meeting, there is obviously a lot of work to be done. There are only a couple of people of color who are back here, and, you know, this is one of the things that I was forced to deal with. When I mentioned before I had taken that one Women’s Studies course, it happened to have been Adrienne Jones’ `Black Women in America’ class. If I had to take one Women’s Studies class, that was the one. It was a Women’s Studies, but it was a Black Studies class as well. It was really good, but I can’t help thinking about one of the things you said before about the woman in your EXCO class when you were talking about how you didn’t expect this person to be taking this class. And that kind of struck me as “Why might you expect someone because they are Black or anything to not be taking that class?” But they were terrified of being thought homosexual and the few people of color who did dare to take that class were under so much pressure and they were so frightened.
Andy Cemelli: I remember a number of friends of mine feeling real pressure that if they were Black they had to be in African Heritage House. Particularly for lesbians and gay men it was just hardly conceivable to them. They felt essentially in a ridiculous bind; they had to choose their allegiances. They had to either be Black or be gay.
Anne Beth Mitrakul: I feel that being Asian was sort of the choice. I think that as a lesbian I went maybe four to six times in my entire Oberlin career to an Asian American Alliance function of some sort. It really felt like there wasn’t anything there for me; there wasn’t a lot of support for lesbian women. I found out later that there was an Asian woman there who was homosexual and who attended no Gay Union functions, so she had made her decision.