Published February 07, 2023 by Tom Porter

Black Alumni Panel on “Shedding the Shackles of Systemic Racism”

With Black History Month getting underway, four Bowdoin alumni spanning a quarter of a century took part in a video discussion in which they compared experiences of being Black at Bowdoin.

The event is part of an initiative called Humanity Rising, which describes itself as “a global movement of people and organizations coming together to take counsel on how to start shaping the world beyond the pandemic.” 

This particular discussion is one of a five-part series of conversations with Black men exploring the theme “Shedding the Shackles of Systemic Racism.”

Watch the conversation

The conversation was moderated by Carroy “Cuf” Ferguson ’68, a practicing psychologist as well as a tenured full professor and former dean at University of Massachusetts–Boston. He was joined by:

Former trustee Dr. Michael Owens ’73, P’15, a health care executive and physician whose range of experience extends from hands-on clinical care taking care of the poor to being a corporate 100 vice president and senior physician executive in public health entities. He is also the founding president of the Bowdoin College Black Alumni Association (BCBAA), established in 2022. One of seven children and the son of a cook in the US Coast Guard, Owens said he came to Bowdoin because “they had a really good recruiter” who “sold” him on the John Russwurm story. He was the recipient of a General Motors National Scholarship.

Rick Adams, also Class of 1973
, who for thirty-six years was administrator at the Community College of Allegheny County in Pennsylvania. He is currently president of Primary Care Health Services, a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit that operates a number of community health care centers. Adams is also a founding member of the BCBAA. He was a keen activist as a student, Adams recalled, at one point organizing a delegation from Maine to attend the National Black Political Convention in Gary, Indiana, in 1972.

Eric Bell ’93, who has over twenty years’ of experience as a youth and community development worker. Following his graduation from Bowdoin, he returned to his native New York City, spending ten years as a director at the Harlem Children’s Zone, where he helped to create several of the organization's signature programs, including the Peacemakers Program and the Children’s March for Peace. Bell said he ended up at Bowdoin after a chance encounter with the College basketball coach in 1988 piqued his interest in becoming a Polar Bear.