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Leader of Historic S.F. State University Strike, Jerry Varnado

Jerry Wayne Varnado, who passed away on Sept. 8, 2021, was a leader of the most successful and long-lasting student strike in the history of U.S. education.  

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Caption: Jerry Wayne Varnado (center) with his wife, Marilyn, and his son Jerry R.H. Varnado at the 2011 SF State College of Ethnic Studies Anniversary. 

Special to the Post

Jerry Wayne Varnado, who passed away on Sept. 8, 2021, was a leader of the most successful and long-lasting student strike in the history of U.S. education.  

He was a founder of the first Black Student Union in the country and later became a practicing attorney.

Born on July 7, 1944, in Jackson, Miss., Varnado was the first of nine children born to John Otis and Lula Mae Varnado. Jerry graduated from Jim Hill High School in 1962.

He was determined to leave the South and aspired to go to school in California. He joined the Air Force and upon discharge, he used his veteran benefits to go to college. 

He moved to San Francisco and lived with his aunt, within walking distance of San Francisco State University (SFSU). He was admitted to SF State in 1966 and initiated into Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc in 1967. His fraternity brothers recognized his leadership potential and immediately elected him chapter president. 

Varnado earned a B.A. in economics in 1969 and later a law degree from UC Hastings College of the Law.

As a student at S.F. State, he was involved with the Negro Students Association and co-founded the Black Student Union (BSU). In 1968, he and fellow BSU leaders established a coalition with the Third World Liberation Front, other students, faculty, and community members and organized the longest student strike in the history of the nation to protest the lack of access, misrepresentation, and the overall neglect of indigenous peoples and people of color within the university’s curriculum and programs. 

The strikers’ demands reflected a respect for the diverse intellectual traditions and cultural expressions of scholars, activists, and artists of color and indigenous people throughout the country. 

The strike fought for tenure for minority instructors, Dr. Nathan Hare and open enrollment for African American students, including actors Danny Glover and Clarence Williams III. 

Historically, SFSU, as a 4-year non HBCU, admitted more African American freshmen in the fall of 1969 than any other U.S. university. The activism and sacrifices of Varnado and other strikers were the impetus for the founding of the College of Ethnic Studies with departments in Africana Studies (formerly Black Studies), American Indian Studies, Asian American Studies, and Latina/o Studies (formerly La Raza Studies) in 1969. 

Their efforts enabled future generations of students at SFSU to learn about the histories, cultures, and intellectual traditions of communities of color and indigenous peoples in the U.S. in the first-person and also to practice theories of resistance and liberation to eliminate racism and other forms of oppression. 

Varnado lived a life of leadership, mentorship, and support to his community, family, and friends.

After completing his studies at SFSU and his law degree, he practiced law in the San Francisco Bay Area. He married the love of his life, Marilyn D. Jones in 1980, who he met at SFSU but later reunited in 1976. 

Jerry and Marilyn had two sons: Jerry R.H. Varnado and Charles C. Varnado. 

Due to the COVID 19 pandemic, he could not gather with friends and family, and this brought him more despair than being ill.

Preceding him in death were his father and mother John Otis and Lula Mae Varnado;  brother, John Otis Varnado Jr.; and sisters, State Senator Alice Varnado Harden (Dennis) and Mildred L. Robinson (Willie).

He leaves to cherish his memory his five sisters Wilma G. Butler (Alex), Dr. Phillis Varnado, Shirley Varnado, Sharron Porter (Andrew) and Dr Jacqueline Jackson (Wilton) along with a myriad of uncles, aunts, cousins, and dear friends, 

Donations Services will be held on October 8 and attendance will be limited to family and close friends due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Donations may be made with a check made payable to the “University Corporation, San Francisco” with “Jerry Varnado Scholarship Donation” noted on the memo line. Please mail donations to:

Office of University Development
San Francisco State University
1600 Holloway Ave., ADM 153
San Francisco, CA 94132

 

The San Francisco Post’s coverage of local news in San Francisco County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Events

Bust of BPP Co-Founder Huey P. Newton to be Unveiled at West Oakland Block Party on Oct. 24

The Dr. Huey P.  Newton Foundation is hosting a block party celebration for the unveiling on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. that will feature local artists, politicians and businesses and the community is invited. The event will be MC’d by Ms. Gina Belafonte.

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Rendering of the Huey P. Newton memorial bust that will be unveiled in Oakland, CA on Oct 24, 2021./ Artist rendering provided by Karin Unger

Installed on a granite base with a seating area for people to reflect on the legacy of Black Panther Party Co-Founder Huey Newton, the memorial bust of his image is the first permanent art installation honoring the BPP in the City of Oakland.

The Dr. Huey P.  Newton Foundation is hosting a block party celebration for the unveiling on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. that will feature local artists, politicians and businesses and the community is invited. The event will be MC’d by Ms. Gina Belafonte.

The Foundation collaborated with world-renowned and local artist Dana King on the creation, which will be placed on Dr. Huey P. Newton Way (formerly 9th Street) and Mandela Parkway, the same street where Huey took his last breath more than 32 years ago.

The Black Panther Party was co-founded by Newton and Bobby Seale in 1966. As the foundation and others commemorate the 55th anniversary of the BPP’s beginnings, the Party is remembered as both a small grassroots organization in Oakland and the international organization it grew into.

From legal self-defense from abusive police officers to survival programs that provided essential services, like free food, medical clinics, and education to the communities they served, the BPP was an exemplary organization of the Black Power era and continues to have rippling effects to this day.

Despite the FBI’s counterintelligence program, known as COINTELPRO, the Black Panther Party was the most influential revolutionary movement of the 20th century.

Newton’s widow, Fredrika Newton, founded The Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation to preserve and promulgate the important history, legacy and contributions of the BPP. The Foundation is proud to gift the Huey Newton Memorial Bust to the City of Oakland as a permanent fixture in their landscape.

 

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Activism

Ask County Supervisors Not to Spend Millions in Tax Dollars on Oakland A’s Real Estate Deal

Please attend the meeting Tuesday, October 26 and express your opinion; call or e-mail your supervisor and Keith Carson, president of the Board of Supervisors, through his chief of staff Amy Shrago at (510) 272-6685 or Amy.Shrago@acgov.org

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A rendering of the proposed new A’s ballpark at the Howard Terminal site, surrounded by port cranes and warehouses. Image courtesy of MANICA Architecture.

The East Oakland Stadium Alliance (EOSA) and other groups are asking local residents to attend and speak at next week’s Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting to oppose a proposal to spend county residents’ tax dollars to pay for the Oakland A’s massive multi-billion-dollar real estate deal at Howard Terminal at the Port of Oakland. 

Please attend the meeting Tuesday, October 26 and express your opinion; call or e-mail your supervisor and Keith Carson, president of the Board of Supervisors, through his chief of staff Amy Shrago at (510) 272-6685 or Amy.Shrago@acgov.org

The Stadium Alliance urges community members to “let (the supervisors) know that Alameda County residents don’t want our tax dollars to pay for a private luxury development. This proposal does not include privately funded community benefits and would harm our region’s economic engine – the port- putting tens of thousands of good-paying jobs at risk.”

 

“The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.”

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Coronavirus

Colin L. Powell, former Secretary of State, 84

Colin L. Powell, the first Black man to serve as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and first Black Secretary of State, died Monday of complications of COVID-19. The 84-year-old was also diagnosed with and being treated for a form of blood cancer and Parkinson’s disease. 

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United States Army General Colin Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/ Wiki Commons

Colin L. Powell, the first Black man to serve as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and first Black Secretary of State, died Monday of complications of COVID-19. The 84-year-old was also diagnosed with and being treated for a form of blood cancer and Parkinson’s disease.

A four-star general who also served on the National Security Council, Powell was born in Harlem, New York, to Jamaican immigrants in 1937. He attended public schools in the Bronx, where he grew up, and would graduate from City College of New York before joining the armed services in 1958 as a second lieutenant because of his participation in ROTC.

He was a professional soldier for 37 years, including two tours in Vietnam, rising steadily through the ranks until achieving 4-star general status in 1989 and, later that year, became the youngest and the first Afro-Caribbean to serve as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, the highest military position in the Department of Defense.

Powell was an exceptional military leader.  He earned the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, and the Soldier’s Medal for heroism.

A moderate, the lifelong Republican was well liked by both political parties, but he ultimately decided against running for public office himself.

He was selected in 2000 to be Secretary of State, transforming General Powell from soldier to statesman.

He became known for persuading the American public and world leaders that Iraq was creating weapons of mass destruction when he ultimately agreed with President George Bush’s administration determination to remove Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. 

It would turn out that the allegations of weapons of mass destruction were not true and Powell would consider the war and loss of life a blot on his record the rest of his life. He returned to private life in 2005 and became an acclaimed speaker in high demand.

He broke rank with his fellow Republicans when he supported then-candidate Barack Obama’s bid for president in 2008. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom twice.

Powell earned the trust of U.S. presidents, foreign leaders, diplomats, and the American people.

“I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of General Colin Powell. I send my sincere condolences to General Powell’s wife, Alma, his family, his friends, and all of his loved ones” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee.

“General Powell was a trailblazer, serving as the first Black Secretary of State,” Lee continued. “I was fortunate enough to travel with General Powell during my early days in Congress to monitor elections in Nigeria and was moved by his kindness and expertise. I witnessed the close friendship between the late Congressman Ron Dellums, Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, and General Powell.

“Their relationship was a powerful example of a mutual admiration and respect between public officials despite their different opinions on policy. Despite our disagreements on some issues, General Powell was steadfast in his commitment to racial equity, diversity and our democracy. General Powell served this country with decency, integrity, and showed respect to everyone he encountered.

“May he rest in eternal peace and power,” Lee concluded.

Powell is survived by his wife, Alma, and three children.

Sources for this story include various news sites, Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s press office and Wikipedia.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

 

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