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Earlier this month, a group of City College alumni visited our campus to talk about their experiences working on The Paper “back in the day.” Albert De Leon, Jerry Mondesire, Charles Powell, Greg Holder, and Jeff Morgan covered events, wrote about issues, shot photographs and edited articles during the turbulent 70s. Here, journalism student Jalesa Tucker discusses their homecoming:

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Left to right: Jeff Morgan, Greg Holder, Charles Powell, Jerry Mondesire and Albert De Leon with adjunct professor Janus Adams.

 

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.“

 

 

 

 

 

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The Paper — Past & Present

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 2.26.41 PMThe Paper has a long, colorful and respected legacy. It was first created in the late 60s by a group of African-American students at City College. Back issues of the publication are currently being digitized for research, thanks to the support and energy of some of these original contributors.

First called “Tech News,” The Paper was born in a very turbulent period of the country, featuring the Civil Rights movement, Vietnam and anti-war demonstrations, and fights for student rights–at City College, CUNY and all over the country.

With a period so rich in social upheaval, The Paper sought to report issues not covered in traditional college newspapers (though some of that was done), or indeed the mainstream press. News coverage ranged from community issues to national and international news, the arts (there was a movie and theatre critic, and a poet-in-residence).

The Paper produced some amazing journalism and was able to “break” several news stories before the mainstream press. In 1971, David Friedlander broke the true story of the uprising at the Attica prison several weeks before the New York Times. Similarly, The Paper broke the story of the 1970 student takeover of the CCNY campus to protest the US invasion of Cambodia. Arlette Hecht wrote a story on the Rockefeller drug laws, an article released simultaneously with a published article in the New York Times and NY Daily News (quite a feat for a college weekly publication).

The Paper also published in depth articles, such as a seminal piece on drugs and their flow into the US. This was important at that time (as it is now) because of the heroin epidemic plaguing Harlem and other black communities.

Right now we need contributors, so please reach out to thepaper@ccny.cuny.edu if you’d like to write, edit, take photographs or help design the publication. Or stop by our office on the first floor of the NAC 1/118.

In the meantime, our very small current staff stands on the shoulders of the alumni giants of the past. Our students hold tight to this Langston Hughes quote, which ran on the banner of The Paper: 

“So we stand here

On the edge of hell

In Harlem

And look out on the world

And wonder

What we’re gonna do

In the face

Of what we remember”