Minutes after the protesting students at the University of the District of Columbia secured the Student Affairs Building, Mark Thompson was scurrying up and down the stairwells of the six-level structure, barking commands and soothing fears.
Personnel in the UDC radio station, WDCU-FM, wouldn't shut down operations.
"If they don't shut it down, we'll use it," Thompson told members of Operation Kiamsha's security team. "I used to run the radio station."
Protesters on the outreach committee couldn't get through to Democratic mayoral nominee Sharon Pratt Dixon.
"I know Sharon personally," Thompson said. "She will be here. She will support us."
Younger students worried about whether the media would cover the takeover for an extended time.
"They'll be here," Thompson counseled. "I have worked for newspapers. This is a good story."
Mark Thompson, a native of Nashville who came to the District in 1985 to attend Georgetown University, obviously was well-prepared for the 11-day protest that students and trustees alike said has changed the course of UDC.
"He's accomplished something that no one else has been able to do at this university," said trustee Alonza T. Evans. "You've got to respect him for that."
At 23, Thompson, an English major who transferred to UDC in the fall of 1988, has worked in production and news for two radio stations, has written for several black-owned newspapers and has helped to organize a national student march on Washington and a student boycott of Virginia Beach.
He counts as his mentors Dixon and Georgetown University basketball coach John Thompson, who is not related.
"You could say I've been preparing for something like this," Thompson said yesterday, less than 12 hours after protesters reached an agreement with trustees to end the 11-day occupation. "A lot of it had to do with my mother and John Thompson."
Mark Thompson was raised by his mother, Janet Petway-Thompson, his grandmother and great-grandmother. His mother is a well-known Nashville educator.
She now works as assistant to the chief financial officer at Fisk University. Ironically, students there launched their own protest days after the UDC movement to demand an end to finance office rules that required students to pay tuition in full at the beginning of a semester.
When Thompson came to Washington, he met John Thompson and developed a father-son relationship while working as a manager for the Hoyas basketball team.
"I learned a lot about cultural awareness from him," said Thompson, who added that he had talked with the coach several times during the protest. "I learned a lot about the struggle for education and how to organize and manage people."
Thompson also picked up some intimidation tactics from the towering Georgetown coach.
Mark Thompson, who writes poetry, is an electrifying and gifted speaker. And like his mentor, he can purposefully launch a litany of curses at people who threaten his agenda.
"I'm trying to give that up," Thompson said. "But it's like smoking. It's hard to quit."