A participatory project to collect and preserve the histories of the City University of New York

The Story of SLAM!: Oral history interviews

The Student Liberation Action Movement (SLAM!) was a student organization at the City University of New York (CUNY) active in the 1990s and 2000s. SLAM! was founded out of the CUNY Coalition Against the Cuts, a CUNY-wide coalition formed in opposition to New York State budget cuts that organized the 25,000 person strong Shut the City Down protest in March 1995. Students-of-color organizations working on and off campus, including the Student Power Movement and SOUL, also significantly contributed to the political climate out of which SLAM! emerged. SLAM! was active at campuses across the CUNY system, most notably at the City College of New York and Hunter College, where SLAM! activists gained control of student government.

SLAM! was committed to opposing budget cuts, tuition hikes, and the end of CUNY’s open admissions policy that had been implemented in 1970; however the organization’s politics extended well beyond a critique of the neoliberalization of CUNY. SLAM! was involved in the abolitionist organizing of the era, with the organization helping to plan the 2001 Critical Resistance East conference in New York City and sending busloads of students to Philadelphia for protests in support of freeing political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. The organization encouraged leadership of women of color, organized in support of feminist and queer struggles, as well as standing in solidarity with the Welfare Action Committee at Brooklyn College which supported students on welfare in the wake of welfare reform. SLAM! took part in anti-imperialist struggles in support of Palestine and against the war in Iraq, and students travelled to Chiapas, Mexico to support the Zapatista movement there. The oral history interviews capture an important period in the history of CUNY, as activists navigated an increasingly policed and privatized university with hostile administrations and changing student demographics.

The oral histories included here were all conducted by Professor Amaka Okechukwu, a sociologist at George Mason University, as part of the research for her book, To Fulfill These Rights: Political Struggle Over Affirmative Action and Open Admissions (Columbia University Press, 2019). Professor Okechukwu graciously contributed these oral history interviews to the CDHA. To Fulfill These Rights documents struggles over open admissions and affirmative action at universities across the country, including a groundbreaking chapter on SLAM! and the dismantling of open admissions at CUNY. This collection was curated by Lucien Baskin, a doctoral student in the Graduate Center's PhD Program in Urban Education.

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4 Featured Items:

Oral History Interview with Kazembe Balagun

In this interview, Kazembe Balagun discussed his time as a student organizer in the Student Liberation Action Movement at Hunter College. He considered SLAM!’s involvement in student government at Hunter and the possibilities and tensions it [...]

Oral History Interview with Lenina Nadal

In this interview, Lenina Nadal discussed her experiences in the middle of the 1990s in the Coalition Against the Cuts and as an original member of the Student Liberation Action Movement (SLAM!). She highlighted the importance of SLAM! being a women [...]

Oral History Interview with Rachel Laforest

In this interview, Rachel Laforest discussed her foundations in the New York Left and internationalist politics. She situated the Student Liberation Action Movement (SLAM!) and student organizing at CUNY in the 1990s and early 2000s within the [...]

Oral History Interview with Sabrine Hammad

In her interview, Sabrine Hammad discussed her political upbringing in a Palestinian nationalist household, and her relationships with her sisters who were also in the Student Liberation Action Movement (SLAM!) At Hunter College in the 1990s, where [...]

Go to all 14 Items in collection.

The Story of SLAM!:  Oral history interviews