Black lecturer's speech riles Hopkins BALTIMORE CITY

March 18, 1993|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,Staff Writer

A racially charged speech by Dr. Leonard Jeffries Jr. last night at the Johns Hopkins University brought a hail of protest, some applause, a few tears and a long, tense evening to the school's Homewood campus.

Dr. Jeffries, a black tenured professor at City University of New York known for speeches denigrating whites and Jews, was a guest of the Black Student Union. His topic was "Assessing Current Political Interaction and the Role of Student Activism in the Political Arena."

A group of about 75 student protesters, many of them Jewish and a few of them black, were angry that the Office of Multi-Cultural Student Affairs gave the Black Student Union $1,500 to bring Dr. Jeffries to Baltimore.

Many of the placards criticized Janet Moore, a black who directs the Office of Multi-Cultural Student Affairs and approved the use of university money to pay Dr. Jeffries' fee. Students accused her of spending their tuition money to bring a racist to the campus.

Ms. Moore, who would not answer a reporter's questions, told one protester, "I just didn't know that Jewish students equated [Jeffries] with [Louis] Farrakhan," the Nation of Islam leader also criticized for anti-Semitic remarks.

Dennis O'Shea, a Hopkins spokesman said: "We all feel very uncomfortable about this situation. We have a conflict between freedom of expression and an intense desire to combat racism and bigotry. The hope is that . . . racism and bigotry will [now] be on the table for discussion in a very public way."

While many of the protesters said they had no problem with Dr. Jeffries being allowed to speak his mind, his remarks were interrupted several times by some of the 300 spectators, dozens of whom had "I am against racism" signs.

His talk, which included a libation ritual and a poetic discourse on Africa's history, began to disintegrate when he spoke about Jews.

"Jews [also] have been involved in our enslavement as well . . .," he said, his sentence interrupted by a heckler. "It's not a question of good Jews, there are good Jews," he said, challenged by another heckler who demanded he "name one good Jew" to support his statement.

Through this exchange, a young white woman began sobbing, "He's a racist, he's a racist."

Dr. Jeffries said he is portrayed as a demon by the white-controlled media because he is black.

Kobi Little, a student who helped organize the event, asked for order and said that after the talk anyone was free to "point out the fallacies" in the speech.

"Dr. Jeffries is a very intelligent man, but his statements are racist," said Stephen Knight, a black freshman who had heard the professor speak in New York. "He says that all white people are racists. Using racism to combat racism is not going to solve anything."

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