Johns Hopkins Gazette: February 21, 1995

Little Reflects On Race Relations at University

By Mike Gluck

     Kobi Little is a serious man.
     Nine months after graduation, when many of his peers have
settled into graduate school or entry-level jobs, the 23-year-old
former political science major is on a hunger strike. Facing a
court case against the NAACP concerning the voting rights of
youth members in branch elections, Little has reduced his food
intake to juice and water since Feb. 12, hoping that his actions
will bring an end to the legal dispute.
     Having spent his years at Hopkins as a student leader,
organizing protests and garnering support for issues that
concerned the black community, Little is well versed in the
rhetoric of debate. 
     Little, a former president of both the Black Student Union
and the Hopkins chapter of the NAACP, returned to his alma mater
last week to talk about his current endeavors and to criticize
race relations at Hopkins. He spoke at the NAACP Founders' Day
Program, a Black History Month event sponsored by the university
chapter of the NAACP, held in the Garrett Room of the Milton S.
Eisenhower Library.
     A self-described activist and organizer, Little serves as
president and CEO of Haram-bee Management, a Baltimore-based
management and consulting firm that offers diversity training
aimed at confronting racism. Little travels the country, speaking
at high schools, universities and other institutions about race
     What has launched him into the public spotlight, however,
has been his current campaign to become president of the
Baltimore chapter of the NAACP. The vote has been postponed
pending the outcome of a debate concerning the right of youth
members who do not pay adult dues to vote in NAACP branch
     Despite his increasing involvement with the NAACP (he is a
life member and serves on an executive committee at the state
level), Little remains deeply concerned about race relations at
Hopkins. His two-hour speech and question-and-answer session drew
applause and nods of encouragement from the several dozen
audience members.
     Little expressed particular disappointment with the
university when speaking of the "16 demands," a list of the
priorities of the black student body presented to the
administration in 1992.
     "The university basically brushed us off," he said. "They
didn't respond to these points."
     The list included a request for the creation of a black
studies department, a required African American studies course
for all students and other efforts to improve the quality of life
here at Hopkins, said Little.   
     University spokesman Dennis O'Shea said the administration
has responded to the 16 demands, and has taken the points very
seriously. He cited as examples of administration's willingness
to address black students' concerns the successful and ongoing
efforts to diversify the faculty and the student bodies as well
as the current plans to establish a race and ethnic studies
     Little also spoke of specific events to illustrate the
strained relationship between black students and the university
administration during his years as a student. One example was the
Eis-enhower Library's controversial 1993 Black History Month
exhibit, which showcased the achievements of two white
abolitionists. After a BSU-led middle-of-the-night sit-in, and
the threat of violence, the library administration agreed to
remove what the students considered an inappropriate display to
celebrate black achievement.
     Although Little appreciates the opportunities that were
available to him as a Hopkins student and acknowledged recent
attempts to increase the black student population, he noted that
various negative aspects of the university have resulted in a
"love-hate relationship" with the school.  
     "A lot of the students were incredibly arrogant and not very
intelligent," said Little.
     He also believes that the university as an institution has
failed to serve as a flagship in the advancement of racial
equality, both for on-campus and community issues, and should
take more efforts to make its resources readily accessible by
members of the outside community.
     Little noted that, given the traditionally slow progress of
the university, black students could and should use their status
to effect change.
     "With the experiences that you gain [at Hopkins], you also
gain power," he stated.
     He urged members of the audience to be personally
responsible for their actions and to recognize their economic,
social and political impact when making decisions concerning
housing and other aspects of university life.
     Following Little's remarks, Hopkins current NAACP president,
Michael Straker, said that black students should not act as if
they are only at Hopkins to get a degree. "I think when people
come to Hopkins, they put blinders on," said Straker, who echoed
Little's message. "Black students should make an effort to
contribute personal resources to the community while attending

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