By Sindy Salmeron, Chronicle Staff Writer
Cypress College in collaboration with Fullerton College and the North Orange County Community College District kicked off Black History Month with a virtual ceremony portraying the theme “Reimagining Black Wall Street.”
The first ever collaboration to celebrate Black History Month between the colleges began with Brandi Avila, manager of Umoja Program at Fullerton College, remembering the success of Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma before the massacre in May 1921.
Attendees included members of Cypress and Fullerton College students and faculty such as Cypress College President JoAnna Schilling, Fullerton College President Greg Schulz, and Chancellor of the NOCCCD Dr. Cheryl Marshall.
After Fullerton President Schulz thanked students, faculty, and staff members for their ongoing contribution to the goal of justice for all. Avila began the west African tradition known as the liberation ceremony, which established that an important event cannot begin without the permission of the elders. Once the elders gave their permission, Avila thanked the ancestor and called them as she poured a liquid as an offer to them. After she said each name and poured the libation, the audience collectively responded “ashay” which means so be it. As she poured the last bit of the libation, Avila invited the audience to remember the ancestors in their families.
Following the liberation ceremony came the Black National Anthem that filled the event with joy as the anthem came to an end, Dr. Marshall joined the meeting and led the audience with a speech about the importance of Black History.
In the midst of the virtual event, Vice President of student services at Fullerton College, Dr. Gilbert J. Contreras dedicated his remarks to the students. Dr. Contreras said, “since March 2020, our students have endured a global pandemic, overt structural racism, and economic uncertainty. We have learned so many lessons from our lived experiences, from how we responded from our actions and from our inactions. Undoubtedly, we learned that our students are resilient, our students persist, our students inspire us with hope. This is our time to move hope into action, action that results in more equity and upward mobility. This is our time.”
Dr. Schilling reflected on the core value of Cypress Colleges and said that it’s important to work together to eliminate the policies and practices that benefit only one part of society.
The last remarks came from Vice President of Instruction at Cypress, Dr. O. Lee Douglas said “I want to remind us, as we reimage, that we also remember. We remember the conditions and the mindset that lead to May 8, 1921, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. That many of those same mindsets exist. Many of those same conditions are still in place. As our work, as ever before us, be ever vigilant to work on behalf of our students, to work together for a stronger community college and for a stronger district.”
The virtual event ended after the discussion of the ways that communities can support the building and sustainability of Black collective wealth innovation and content creation.
To continue the celebration of Black History Month, Cypress College will continue to have virtual events throughout the month.
Anyone interested in attending the events can head on over to https://www.cypresscollege.edu/event/2021-black-history-month-events/2021-02-23/