By Emilie St. John
COMPTON — Compton College celebrated the renaming of its library in honor of the first Black woman elected to its Board of Trustees during Community Day April 22.
Emily B. Hart-Holifield is 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.
The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges stripped the college of its accreditation in 2005 citing fiscal instability and corruption on the governing board. Hart-Holifield was not a member of the board of trustees when it lost its accreditation.
According to documents submitted to request restoring Hart-Holifield’s name to the library, the college said 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 trustees, a past president 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. Syke Jr., the father of Channel 7 news personality Leslie Sykes, whose name is on the Child Development Center and former state legislator Ralph C. Dills, 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 denoted a meeting took place between college President Keith 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 other former 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’s 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. There are no meeting minutes publicly available for that meeting.
“After meeting with the Facilities Committee twice, Mika Black submitted a revised request on Oct. 10, 2022,” which included support from the community, U.S. Rep. Nanette Barragan and Compton City Manager Thomas Thomas.
The Board of Trustees voted unanimously in favor of renaming the library after Hart-Holifield in late 2022. Due to the new naming of building and other facilities policy, the building 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,” Curry said.
“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,” Calhoun said. “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.”
Hart-Holifield’s family were on hand to celebrate the renaming of the library, which they fought so hard to restore.
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,” Sharif said. “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 covering the areas of Carson, Compton, Inglewood and Willowbrook. Send tips to her at email@example.com.