Portal To The Past

“A good snapshot keeps a moment from running away” – Eudora Wetly

‘Blacks Take North Hall’ was the headline on October 15, 1968 in UCSB’s school newspaper, El Gaucho. That day a group of twelve students, all from the Black Student Union (BSU), barricaded themselves inside a room on the second floor of North Hall that contained the university’s IBM mainframe. From there the students demanded the university eight things that they wanted to see happen or change.  Some notable demands were to have a Black Studies department created, a commission established that investigates problems formed from individual racism, and to have a black counselor hired in the EOP program.

In 2012, almost half a century later, the BSU of UCSB demanded a mural to be created depicting photographs of the events that took place on that Monday morning in 1968. A rather simple, yet powerful way of creating a portal to the past.


(Panoramic Photo of North Hall Mural at UCSB)

When I look at these photos I am pulled in. The specifically chosen photos allow me to delve in. The photos elicit a sense of power, determination, and passion. For those members of the BSU in 2012, a reassurance that a voice is still heard, and an indicator that the power of change has lived on through the generations.

As Eudora stated, a photo is an unbreakable chain around a moment in the past. It is something that when one looks at, they are placed in the photographer’s shoes. They are guided to feel the sensations the photographer felt in the moment. They are guided to the understanding of what others felt around the photographer at the moment

The accumulation of the catalytic properties of a photograph enables one to remember a past. A viewpoint of a person there. You become a spectator. Thus, the past thrives in the present. The minute you step into the photographer’s shoes you’re clouded by the illusion of the past. The past becomes what was once the present for small amount of time.

The mural’s simplicity, being merely composed of photos, allows one to spectate the past through photographer’s lenses. Being placed into the shoes of the photographer is one thing. But to define what they saw is the remembrance, a memorial. The essence of collective memory.

The photo of two young black students speaking into the mic with the look unity and purpose.

A photo of a young woman stating her point with determination.

The photo of the BSU members on the second floor. All with different facial expression. Different feelings.

The innocent snapshot of a white boy and black boy looking at each other with the expression of ‘What is going on?’

The photo of a black man making a claim with a powerful finger pointed to the ground.

This is what I see. I can’t speak for all. However, I’m 19 years old and attend UCSB. I am in the crosshairs of the mural. The intended audience.


‘Dialogue between students over North Hall Occupation’


Photos 1

‘BSU Students in North Hall, October 14, 1968’


Photos 2

‘Cynthia George, Free Speech Rally, spring 1969’


Photos 3

‘Two children look at each other in front of North Hall’


Photos 4

‘For nine hours, BSU students spoke about grievances at UCSB’


Photos 5

‘Rashidi makes a point’


Photos 6

Members of United Front march on administration building with Black Power salute’


Photos 7

‘Black run-ins with the law drew charges of police harassment’