BHM: Events Kick Off At UCR
By Dianne Anderson
A few things pushed Greedley Harris toward a field in counseling, namely a close call as a freshman in high school.
As an honor roll middle school student, Harris took all the right classes he needed for advanced placement, but his counselor — for whatever reason — tracked him into the lowest classes available, all remedial.
His parents fought to get him properly placed. Eventually, the school fixed it. Left unchecked, he said it could have been devastating. “When they put me in the correct classes, I was like three weeks behind. It was a lose-lose situation,” he said. “Why was I tracked into remedial classes from the get-go?”
To this day, he still worries about how many of his peers didn’t make it because of bad counselors. He doesn’t believe he was an isolated case. “There is institutionalized racism, some counselors do not know how to help Black students,” he said.
Harris, interim director of UCR African Student Programs, said now his top priority is getting Black students in the university door, and retained for graduation.
For that, accountability must start early for all levels, students, teachers, and counselors, and especially in high school to strengthen student recruitment.
“UCR is doing a good job of that. We’re trying to do better to make sure our incoming Black students have what they need to get here, and support to stay here,” he said.
Along with several other Black student groups, he said ASP holds a pivotal role in the process, serving as a hub for students on campus. It’s a safe space.
“It’s a home away from home, a place where they can connect and see people who look like them,” he said.
As part of the Black History Month lineup, he said the campus has a huge breakout of programming to foster academics, leadership, professional development, and community building.
UCR is celebrated as a diverse campus, which he said covers a lot of territory.
“We have African students, African American students, Afro-Latino,” he said. “We try to build an inclusive community where all Black students can engage and be a part of something bigger.”
Robert Gordon, Interim Program Coordinator of UCR African Student Programs, said that’s what this year’s breakout is all about. Events and partners have something special going all month long.
On Thursday, February 7, ASP along with UCR HIV/AIDS Committee and TruEvolution will raffle prizes and free food at their outreach as part of nationally recognized Black HIV/Awareness and testing day. The campus event offers quick, free on-site testing. Professional counselors will help to ease frayed nerves around the stigma, and the process.
“A lot of students assume that HIV is a death sentence. There’s a lot of misinformation around HIV/AID,” said Gordon, who recently graduated, and now a program coordinator on staff.
Other events include a tribute to Black Panther Week, the real Party – Black Panther Party for Self Defense.
His father, a current member of the Black Panther Party, is still active in the community, and inspired him to look at various social and artistic impacts on the revolution.
On Tuesday, February 12, Art as Revolution runs from 6-8:00 p.m. Students are invited out for a “sip and paint” to get familiar with works by featured guest Emory Douglas, who was the minister of culture for the Party.
Long before Photoshop existed, Douglas created all of the artwork, newsletters, and promotional material. Students can catch up with Douglas on the following day.
“The premise behind it is to educate people on Emory Douglas before he comes out. Once they make their art pieces we would like to display them before he comes to speak,” Gordon said.
ASP is also hosting an African American campus officer who will talk candidly about the complexities of the field. It’s not uncommon for Black officers to be shunned within their department, and out in the community.
“You get flack for being an officer, and double flack, seen as a traitor to your own race. That’s always been the perception,” he said.
The conversation hopes to open communication with students and campus police and establish better community policing.
Students can also delve deeper into Black Panther, the Marvel movie with “Decoded,” in an analysis of the film, and its parallels to the Party ideology.
“We have prominent professors on campus that deal with Afrofuturism that have talked about the film in totality, and some of the messages. They go into depth of the characters. We’re dissecting the film,” he said.
On Wednesday, February 20, “Safeguard: Protecting the Community,” carries the theme and ideals that fall in line with the original Black Panther Party. That event is in collaboration with ASP, and Sisters Affirming our Socio-Cultural Identities (S.A.S.I).
He said that the Panthers used to provide an escort service for youth and the elderly so they could feel safe going home, and to and from church.
“We are educating our students that we have that service offered on campus. A lot of our students aren’t aware of that,” he said.
On the anniversary of Malcolm X’s assassination, the ASP Black Manifestation event has vision boarding to help Black men on campus chart a path for success. There, students can discover their academic and professional goals, short term and long term.
“There isn’t much programming for Black men here on campus, we’re kind of rarity as a student,” he said. “Let’s sit down and think and plan on what your future looks like and actualize those things.”
On Monday, Feb. 25, the entire community is invited out to the Melanin Monday festival, presenting Yale professor Kathleen Cleaver of the Black Panther Party.
Several following events wind down with ASP partners as part of Black Queens Week, including “Soulful Cries” to break through mental health stigmas, and access help and explorations to maintain a healthy mindset.
For details on upcoming events, see https://asp.ucr.edu/events