Christine Croasdaile ’17, laptop in hand, organized students during the Uprising.

Among the many inspirations for the Amherst Uprising, which took place five years ago in November, you must include Double Dutch.

This creative, complex way of jumping rope is “very near and dear to a lot of Black women’s hearts,” said Katyana Dandridge ’18 in the online event “Alumni Reflections on the Fifth Anniversary of Amherst Uprising.” In 2015 Dandridge and Lerato Teffo ’18 were taking a course in which Aneeka Henderson, assistant professor of sexuality, women’s and gender studies, focused on Black women and their methods of transgression.

“It was not just learning how to Double Dutch,” said Dandridge of one class assignment. “We had to learn how to do it in public and in different, unexpected places so that we would become spectacles and transgress a space.” Dandridge, Teffo and Sanyu Takirambudde ’18 transfigured the idea of transgression into a November 2015 show of support, at Frost Library, for students of color protesting their marginalization at the University of Missouri, Yale and other institutions. They were also inspired by Black Lives Matter events put on by Amherst’s Black Student Union and Multicultural Resource Center.

“We thought it’ll probably be 20 people max at Frost,” Dandridge recalled. “And then we showed and there were dozens of students. We were taken aback by the amount of support that people were showing, that they’d sit with us and show that Black students were not in this alone.”

Dandridge, now director of equity, programs and operations at ArtUp in Memphis (whose founder and CEO is Linda Steele ’85), spoke at the anniversary event with Amir Hall ’17, Christine Croasdaile ’17, Andrew Smith ’18 and moderator Lola Fadulu ’17. Isabella Edo ’21, a double major in Black studies and law, jurisprudence and social thought, spoke about the Uprising’s impact on current students. President Biddy Martin reflected on how it “has changed virtually every domain at the College.”

Fadulu, a Washington Post reporter, spoke to Croasdaile, who is getting her J.D. and MBA at Howard University: “Christine, I know that for a lot of students, the moment that you spoke up is what transformed this into the Amherst Uprising.” The others nodded in agreement.

Croasdaile recalled: “Christin Washington, who’s also class of ’17, saw me shaking in my seat and she’s like, ‘What is going on, Christine?’ And I said, ‘I can’t let this moment pass. How can we say that we’re sitting in solidarity, but we’re not taking the mirror and looking back at ourselves?’ And she was like, ‘So get up and say it.’”

Students Double Dutch outside Frost in 2015. This helped inspire the Uprising.

On that first day of the Uprising, Croasdaile spoke of the inequities at Amherst for students of color—and that seemed to flip a switch for other students to voice their pain and frustration.

For Hall, who is studying fiction writing at New York University, the protest “was about supporting the people who were doing the work. Even then it was very common for Black women to lead activism work, group work.” He continued: “The Amherst Uprising was one of the most sincere and organic moments of community that I’ve ever felt.”

Smith, who is pursuing a master’s in human/computer interaction at the University of Maryland, displayed photos from the protest. He developed the website for the Uprising anniversary.

“It would be impossible to overstate the impact that the Amherst Uprising had, and it can be demonstrated in all sorts of ways,” Martin said at the anniversary event. Her list of its effects was long: the opening of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; hires in Asian American studies and Black political thought; the new Latinx and Latin American studies major. Hiring of faculty of color has picked up “incredibly significantly, though it’s still nowhere close to what it needs to be for faculty to reflect the diversity of the student body,” said Martin.

She also mentioned academic programs that have emerged, such as “Being Human in STEM” and the science Incubator program. In athletics, she noted that four Black coaches were hired this past year. “And the percentage of students of color now on varsity teams has risen significantly enough for people to reflect on it even in The New York Times,” Martin said. “But again, not nearly enough.”

It seems that coursework-inspired Double Dutch experience led to a leap in consciousness. Or, as Croasdaile put it: “Our motto, Terras Irradient, is ‘Bring light to the world.’ The Amherst Uprising was truly a moment when we shed light on Amherst itself.”

Croasdaile: Kaelan McCone ’19; Double dutch: Roberta Diehl