CONFRONTATIONS – UWI Student Protest & the Rodney Disturbance of 1968
The exhibition offered a timeline of significant instances of protest among students of the University of the West Indies from 1960 to 2015; with a specific focus on events of October 1968 when a government ban on UWI lecturer Dr Walter Rodney sparked a student march which morphed into a riot involving a wide range of dispossessed Jamaicans and criminal elements. Rodney had been active raising race and socio-economic consciousness in a range of underprivileged communities during his aborted period as a lecturer at the UWI.
On October 15, the Jamaican government declared Rodney persona non grata on grounds of sedition and refused to allow him to re-enter the island after he travelled to a Black Writers Conference in Canada; leaving his family stranded in Kingston. Early on October 16, the students marched in protest. Assertive police response at various points along the march, and an overwhelming incursion of non-students sent the UWI marchers back to the Mona campus where the security forces corralled them for several days until they agreed to return to classes.
The exhibition covered the long years of student protest at UWI – a tradition that dates back, at least to 1960, when there was a protest over both local and international issues. Students in the Mary Seacole Hall took hall issues into the public eye, and just weeks later were among students and faculty on the streets of Kingston protesting the Sharpeville Massacre in South Africa.
These activities became a staple of the 1960s, and were increasingly informed by international as well as local conditions spurring the banning of intellectuals in the Caribbean and civil rights, race consciousness and other socio-political struggles in North America and beyond. The 1968 Rodney related student protest and related riot was also in keeping with student and student/worker protest across the world during 1968.