O.C. Colleges Celebrate Black History
By Dianne Anderson
Black Wall Street, an area around Greenwood Ave. in Tulsa, Oklahoma, 41 years after slavery was a burgeoning community, home to about 10,000 Black professionals, business owners, luxury shops with over $200 million circulating through the local economy.
Doctors, homeowners, newspapers, taxis, people from all walks of life contributed their expertise to build up one of the most revered historic examples of Black wealth and ingenuity.
And everything burned to the ground in the Tulsa Race Massacre of May 31, 1921. Many lives were lost, and families were devastated by the carnage of the Ku Klux Klan fire bombings and an aerial attack.
Brandi Avila, manager of the Fullerton College Umoja Community Program, said that while they are never forgetting the devastation of Black Wall Street, they are turning to the principles of Kwanzaa, the fourth principle Ujamaa specifically, by Swahili definition, meaning Cooperative Economics.
With the right plan, she said the structure and the vision that sustained the dream of Black Wall Street can happen again.
“This month we’re talking about building possibilities and wealth. We know it exists in the Black community, but how do we make it sustainable?” she said.
Community members, faculty and staff came together to connect the dots. They hired an architectural design drafter to re-imagine the heart of what Black Wall Street was able to achieve in its day.
“He’s already working on what the community hub could look like. He’ll be talking about ideas, what do we need in a community hub? What’s missing, what would we like to see? With all of the strength that exists, how can we duplicate that and make it grow?” she said.
The Umoja community programming partnered with Cadena Cultural Center, serving Black students, Umoja scholars, and those who are not Black identified, to magnify the excellence throughout the African Diaspora.
“We are huge on collaborating across campus to give our students what is necessary to affirm what they already know, to build on skills and introduce things that they may not have thought about,” said Avila, also co-chair of Guided Pathways: Ensuring Learning Committee.
One goal is tapping into Career Life and Planning Center so students can access personal aptitude tests and focus on career specialties that may tie in with the Reimagined Black Wall Street conceptualization.
Fullerton College is hosting the event as part of Black History Month, but she said the project not just for the month and not just in theory. They are providing actual skills for the students.
“Once in they’re in their expertise, then we can have a bigger pool of people that contribute to a Black wall street,” she said. “There are still possibilities out there, especially at a time that is so bleak. Education is still thriving and looking to better ourselves and as institutions to serve our communities.”
At Santa Ana College, Dr. Kellori Dower said that her staff had been meeting since September to cover what they thought was most important in the months ahead.
One of the first concerns to address the lingering impact and weight of the events of the past year.
“We didn’t ignore the fact that what happened with George Floyd last summer was pivotal. We wanted to meet the moment. We wanted to make sure what we said was relevant and address some of the issues that African Americans are dealing with today,” she said.
The focus is on the arts through the Black experience, and the role it plays in the overall cultural landscape of the nation. She said the arts have an important place in rewriting the narrative, and is a powerful influence to override the hype.
“People listen to the underscore of someone dictating what they see, that’s a lot of power,” she said. “How we can help our students through recognizing the power we hold, and then how to use that power for the good to help change and shift our culture for the better?”
Into the final week of Black History Month, their overarching theme “Hear Our Song” and a live portrait of the college’s past president and first African American president, President Linda D. Rose. “Of Ebony Embers” is a theatrical presentation through the eyes of a muralist, poet Marcus Omari.
“Our keynote address will be from Dr. Joy Degruy, author of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing. She’s going to talk about what it is and how we move forward,” said Dower, who led this year’s programming with faculty students and staff.
Due to the pandemic, most campus events shut down, but she said their art gallery showings continued last fall, and will continue gallery showings this spring with online tours. Creativity has not stifled.
She commended the department and faculty for the great job transitioning to remote venues, and helping students achieve their goals.
“I would just really hope that what we’ve presented to tell our story for folks can hear the triumph and the dark past, I know that nothing is going to be resolved until we confront it, and that we are part of the process toward healing,” she said.
For Fullerton College events, see
To check out Black History Month events and other student resources at Santa Ana College, see