HBCU Spotlight: Caroline Hunter
HBCU Spotlight: Caroline Hunter
By Sheryl Wesley
This edition’s spotlight goes to Xavier University of Louisiana alumnae, Caroline Hunter, an Anti-Apartheid activist educator, mother, sister, daughter and auntie to us all.
It is one thing to meet a person through a mutual friend and immediately have a connection and respect for them. It is another thing when you read up on them and find out their history and realize that you are standing in the room with greatness.
Caroline is proud graduate of Xavier University of Louisiana with her B.S. degree in chemistry. After graduation, Hunter was hired as a research bench chemist for Polaroid Corporation in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1970, upon the discovery of her employer’s involvement in the South African apartheid system as the producer of the passbook photos, she and her future husband, co-worker Ken Williams, formed the Polaroid Revolutionary Workers Movement (PRWM). Hunter and Williams became the first American activists to challenge their employers’ South African investments. They led a seven-year boycott against Polaroid that included testifying before the United Nations and Congress about American corporations profiting from assisting the South African government. In 1971, Polaroid fired both Hunter and Williams, but the PRWM prevailed and by 1977 Polaroid completely pulled out of South Africa.
After her involvement in the PRWM, Hunter went on to work as an educator. She was a secondary science and math teacher and volunteered on a number of school-community projects for at-risk youth, advocacy and support for diverse parents, and elimination of the achievement gap. She also taught math and science to Boston, Massachusetts’s public high school students in summers and Saturday workshops. In 1999, Hunter earned her M.Ed. degree from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education and became the assistant principal of the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School.
And to think I met Caroline and her humble spirit to only know her to be the leader of the “Inkwell” Polar Bears club at “The Inkwell”, Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard, MA. This sacred ground is a narrow, sandy curved strip of public beach protected by a seawall and mystic tales of African-American heroes and heroines from the past to the present. Polar Bears is a great informal institution that has survived for over 60 years without a constitution, bylaws, officers or any formal organizational structure other than the imperative of caring friendships. Every morning you can find Caroline in the water as the nucleus of joy and inspiration. A ritual not to miss whether you are in the circle or enjoying the songs and sayings of affirmations to start your day from the wayside. It is a right of passage to being inducted into the connected vines of the Vineyard.
Caroline remains an active HBCU alumnae. She travels annually to attend XULA Homecoming and was one of the key supporters in the creation of the Xavier Alumni Golf Tournament. Last year she celebrated her 50th XULA Reunion with members of the Class of 1968.
You can find the reflective voice and image of Caroline in the permanent exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National African American Museum of History and Culture, in Washington, DC during a brief video entitled “The Power of Place”, which illuminates the collective yet profoundly personal purpose that Oak Bluffs has served over generations. Listening to the collective stories makes the curator’s contention clear: Place matters. Place is where culture is made, where traditions and histories are kept and lost, where identities are created, tested, and reshaped over time. Oak Bluffs like any Historically Black College and University has provided a place of continuity for the African-American community, a place of memory and imagination, a place to call home.
One of Caroline’s favorite mantras that is recited daily is ‘I Am the Source of My Joy and Infinite Possibilities!’
She urges all HBCU alumni to become active in their chapters and to give generously to their alma maters.
Also, every Tuesday night, please visit Caroline and her partner Carleen Cordwell of CnC Productions and their dance party @ The Ole Skool Dance Cafe aka The P.A. Club, 137 Vineyard Ave, Oak Bluffs. Bringing to you your favorite old school, hip hop, and R&B.
$5 Donation & Cash Bar
Howard University Graduate, School of Communications