Veterans of our publication talk about the past and future of The Paper by Jalesa Tucker
Some of the original members of The Paper stopped by Shepard Hall on April 16 to talk to current students about the significance and legacy of CCNY’s only campus publication run by students of color. City College in the late 60s – early 70s was a very different place, wrestling with race, politics, social justice and other issues of the day. Working at The Paper offered refuge. “We didn’t feel like we belonged here but The Paper was a place that created our belonging and camaraderie,” said Charles Powell, who is now a lawyer. “The fellowship and the friendship and the commitment to each other was what we felt was necessary for our own survival.”
The publication began as a supplement to Tech News in 1970. “Tech News was the paper that was run by the architecture engineering students that were on the north side; of course the African-American students were on the south side,” recalled Jerry Mondesire, now a Philadelphia newspaper publisher. “We never came up here. There was hostility on campus toward African Americans and non-white.”
By joining forces with staff members of Utambuzi, a newsletter for Black students, their advisor the late Louis Reyes Rivera was successfully able to establish a black student voice within Tech News.
“Louis had the idea to go after the Tech News,” said Mondesire. “I had started Utambuzi but that didn’t have the campus distribution that we wanted. So Louie said let’s take that and meld it into Tech News.”
With a staff of eager journalists and a desire to have the issues they cared about heard, members of The Paper went on to break some of the biggest stories of the day. In 1970, The Paper broke the story of the student takeover of the CCNY campus in protest against the U.S. invasion of Cambodia. Student journalist David Friedlander wrote the Attica prison uprising in 1970. several weeks before the New York Times.
These days, Mondesire, Powell, Albert De Leon, Greg Holder, and Jeff Morgan still look back fondly on the early days of The Paper as the start of their respective careers and a lifelong friendship. “Being handed The Paper felt like we had literally been handed lemons with which we made some beautiful rich sweet lemonade every week,” said Powell. “We savored that to the point that all these years later we still get chills when we mention that word or the saying from Langston Hughes and all the rest.“