COMPTON (2UG) – Compton College celebrated the renaming of its library in honor of the first Black woman elected to its Board of Trustees during Community Day held April 22.
Mrs. Emily B. Hart-Holifield was the longest-serving board member in the college’s history. Her name was placed on the exterior of the library and then removed after the district went under the control of El Camino College. In 1994, Mrs. Holifield appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee and then Sen. Joe Biden during the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as a member of the Compton NAACP.
The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) stripped the college of its accreditation in 2005 citing fiscal instability and corruption on the governing board. Mrs. Hart-Holifield was not a member of the board of trustees when it lost its accreditation.
On March 16, 2010 during the Board of Trustees meeting, the Special Trustee for Compton Community College District and the Board of Trustees approved Board Policy 3320 – Naming Buildings and Other Facilities. Current President/CEO of the college Dr. Keith Curry was named interim CEO in 2011 and in March 2014: The Special Trustee approved changing the name of the Learning Resources Center (LRC) to the Library-Student Success Center at the Board of Trustees meeting.
The policy was not fully adopted until local control was restored in October 2019.
According to documents submitted to request restoring Mrs. Hart-Holifield’s name to the library, the college communicated her name was removed “as part of the demolition of the Student Services Building site, the signage was possibly removed between the relocation of books and other items into the new Library area in 2014 and salvage activities leading up to demolition in 2020”.
Of the five buildings that bore the names of former Board Trustees, a past President/Superintendent and a former state legislator, only the names of the former board members were removed. Two of the five buildings are brand new, however, the only names that remain on the buildings are Abel B. Sykes, Jr. , the father of Channel 7 anchor Leslie Sykes whose name is on the Child Development Center and Ralph C. Dills, California State Assemblymember (1938-1949) and California State Senator (1966-1998) whose name is on the Vocational-Technology Building.
Dills sponsored legislation that led to the creation of El Camino College in 1946.
After a vigorous campaign by the Holifield family, a board agenda item from November 2022 denotes a meeting took place between Dr. Curry and Benjamin and Emily Hart-Holifield on the process to restore her name to the Library-Student Success Center.
According to the agenda, “When a building is demolished, replaced or substantially renovated, or where the occupancy changes and the former name is no longer appropriate than a request for a new name will be considered. It may be appropriate to place a plaque in, or on, a new building to indicate that it occupies the site of a building formerly known by another name. Such plaques should recognize the person, organization or corporation after whom the former building was named. It may also be appropriate that a request for a new name will be considered to name part of a new building after a person for whom the former building was named.”
Two former board trustees, Jane M. Astredo and Carl E. Robinson, Sr. had their names removed from the buildings despite the fact that they were not demolished, replaced or substantially renovated. The college did not respond to requests for comment as to why they were removed.
Holifield’s grandaughter Mika Black formally requested the library be renamed for her grandmother in early 2022. The meeting minutes detail that she and her grandfather attended the August 30, 2022 Facilities Committee meeting and provided an overview of the request and clarified their intent verbally that they would like the Library-Student Success Center to be renamed the Holifield Library-Student Success Center per AR 3320 – Criteria for Naming Buildings and Other Facilities. There are no meeting minutes publicly available for that meeting.
“After meeting with the Facilities Committee twice, Mika Black submitted a revised request on October 10, 2022,” which included support from the community, former Compton Congressional Rep. Nanette Barragan and Compton City Manager Thomas Thomas.
The Board of Trustees voted unanimously in favor of renaming the library after Mrs. Holifield in late 2022. Due to the new naming of the building and other facilities policy, will be known as the Holifield Library-Student Success Center.
“The Compton Community College District is pleased to posthumously honor Mrs. Emily B. Hart Holifield’s life-long community work, advocacy, and dedication to education and Compton College by naming the campus library as the Holifield Library,” said Keith Curry, Compton Community College District CEO and president of Compton College. “Emily B. Hart-Holifield was the first Black woman elected to the District’s Board of Trustees in 1975. She served on the Board for 20 consecutive years, including serving 10 terms as board president.”
Current Compton Community College District Board of Trustees president Barbara Jean Calhoun voted in favor of the name change request.
“Compton College’s library, newly constructed in 2014, is the main hub on campus for students to access study resources and tutoring that aid in their academic success,” said Calhoun. “Mrs. Emily B. Hart-Holifield was dedicated to the success of all students, which is why the library is the appropriate place to honor her. In naming it the Holifield Library, we recognize her abundant accomplishments, lengthy service within the District, and her belief in public service as a sacred, ongoing responsibility.”
The family of Mrs. Holifield were on hand to celebrate the renaming of the library which they fought so hard to restore. Unfortunately, Mrs. Holifield passed away before she could see this day.
Compton Mayor Emma Sharif was also on hand for the event and shared it was fitting for her name to be restored.
“Renaming the Compton Community College Library in honor of Mrs. Emilie Hart-Holifield is a fitting tribute to a woman who dedicated her life to education and public service,” said Compton Mayor Emma Sharif. “Students will be reminded of her legacy when they visit the library and she will continue to inspire generations to come.”
According to the policy names on buildings and/or facilities are not guaranteed in perpetuity.
Emilie St. John is a freelance journalist for 2UrbanGirls.com and the Los Angeles Wave newspaper