I’ve known Lonnie Brandon, the subject of our cover story, for quite a while — and if ever there was a born leader, it’s him.
In 1970, Lonnie was the president of Black Concern, a group advocating for the interests of Black Wagner students at a time when they represented just 4 percent of the student body.
Overwhelmingly White institutions like Wagner College, no matter how much goodwill they brought to the table, had a very hard time thinking differently about their campus cultures after nearly a century of serving just one community — which made life for minority students just that much harder.
It shouldn’t have been any surprise, then, when members of Black Concern occupied Cunard Hall in 1970, pressing Wagner College to become a more welcoming, open institution.
I first met Lonnie in 2010, when he was organizing a 40th anniversary seminar on the Cunard occupation.
As the college historian, I wanted to make sure he had access to everything we had — and I wanted to learn more from him about that crucial event in Wagner history. In the process, I discovered the importance of telling the story of what those students did, the consequences they faced, and the fruit their actions bore.
Those young men and women put their college careers and their futures on the line to make Wagner a better, more accessible, more diverse place for all of us. Their story is an important alumni story — an important Wagner story. And when the 50th anniversary of the occupation arrived last year, I knew it was time to tell that story.
I have to thank Lonnie for his patience and generosity during the research and interview process for our cover story. We spent hours on the interview itself, and we exchanged innumerable emails and text messages afterward, making sure we’d gotten it right.
And then, when we’d finished the primary account, my publisher and I realized it would have to be edited way, way down — which is where Stephanie Siek came in.
A member of the National Association of Black Journalists, Stephanie is a freelance writer and editor with an extraordinary résumé. Since graduating from Ohio University in 2003, she’s worked on the editorial staff at the Boston Globe, Der Spiegel, Deutsche Welle, CNN, the Associated Press, the New York Times and MSNBC.
Stephanie’s grasp of the story was incredible, and her talent at recrafting big chunks of background without losing their significance was invaluable.
Editor, Wagner Magazine