CSUSB, Cal Poly Host Black History Month Events
By Dianne Anderson
Nearly every day this month, students are rallying the cause and rolling out numerous free Black History Month events on everything from financial literacy to political realism to the politics of food.
On Thursday, February 7, Cal State San Bernardino presents nationally recognized speaker, minister and activist, Nyle Fort, on “Race, Protest and Democracy.” The Conversations on Diversity is held from noon to 1:30 p.m. at Santos Manuel Student Union Event Center, located 5500 University Pkwy, San Bernardino.
University Ombuds Officer Twillea Evans-Carthen said that Fort, a Ph.D. student in Religion and African American studies at Princeton University, brings a strong faith-based background. She said his demonstration will likely be similar to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s approach in terms of peaceful protest to promote democracy.
“He’ll probably highlight his experience in terms of Ferguson, Missouri, and what’s going on there that was perhaps associated with Black Lives Matter, and the movement itself, “ Evans-Carthen said. “He’s an educated man, and he’s coming from a different place and a different experience as a young man.”
Fort’s conversation will cover justice issues surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement, and the struggle of young Black men within his liturgy, “The Seven Last Words: Strange Fruit Speaks,” reflections of Black victims at the hands of systemic police violence.
Evans-Carthen said the Conversations on Diversity series, held quarterly in the fall, winter, and spring, kicked off 15 years ago with keynote guest Maura Townsend featuring Project21Dance Company. Questions and answers focused on culture, race, gender and dance.
Since then, a variety of speakers have engaged conversations that can be demonstrated through the arts. She said the upcoming event is open and free to the entire community, not just faculty and students.
“When you think of conversations on diversity, it is to get people thinking about what they can do, and we create a safe space for them to have these conversations,” she said.
Kameron Pyant, who leads the CSUSB Pan African Center, said thanks to the several Black clubs on campus, this year offers something for everyone. Many events are still to be announced for times and location, and he suggests students check back on their website for more information.
Among the numerous events coming up: On Monday, February 4, the Student African American Brotherhood (SAAB) presents, “The Politics of Food,” at the Cross Cultural Center. On Wednesday, February 6, the National Pan-Hellenic Council presents “I am not my Skin.”
On Thursday, February 7, the Student African American Brotherhood waxes poetic at Poetry Night, which runs from 6-8:00 p.m. at Santos Manuel Student Union theater.
Pyant, 21, an English major, has a special affinity for poetry as one of the more powerful venues to get the message across at deeper levels.
“The spoken word and issues of Black life, I feel it’s something that’s therapeutic. It really helps young people. It’s the passion behind it,” he said.
On Monday, February 11, the Student African American Sisterhood presents “Healthy Relationships.
The following Monday, February 18, SAAB also presents “On It, Own It,” an accredited housing series in collaboration with the Women’s Resource Center.
In leading the Pan African Center, Pyant said much of the programming and projects have evolved over the years. Active groups, such as the Student African American Brotherhood, Student African American Sisterhood, and the Black Student Union, among others, have drawn more Black students into campus unity.
That’s important, he said, because Black student enrollment is still very small at only 5-6%.
“It keeps us all pretty much together in terms of events. We talk about different things going on. We already know our past, so we try to focus on topics of today, things that can help us improve,” he said
Students involved in Black club life are also more likely to graduate.
“It’s because we’re always in the community and there is so much unity within it. We hold each other accountable. It’s easier for us to succeed,” he said.
Throughout February, Cal Poly Pomona is also inviting the community lto experience some of the cerebral side of protest and idealism with several free BHM events there.
On February 7, the campus kicks off with a special Black Heritage keynote, one of three co-founders of Black Lives Matter, Patrisse Cullors, will conclude the student leadership conference, covering the BLM movement and its broader impact.
Tashiana Bryant, campus coordinator of the African American Student Center, is excited that Cullors is tying up the conference. She said it can raise consciousness for all students.
“A lot of times you’re preaching to the choir when you’re talking to Black folks. I like to see diversity in the room, that there are people engaged in our issues, and how they can be a part of it,” she said.
February 18-22 is also officially BLERD week, a complimentary combination of Black and Nerd. Although it’s a passive activity, she said it’s powerful in opening up thought and book lists beyond the bestseller category.
“It’s really to capture that experience and highlight this culture of appreciation of nerdiness in geek culture,” Bryant said. “Black book exchanges for all those that have works by a Black author gives students an opportunity to spotlight the book, and create dialogue.”
Podcasting is another big area for students these days. On campus, an entire day is devoted to providing links, and exposing students to thought-provoking podcasts at the center.
On Thursday, February 21, it’s all about the great Cosplay luncheon.
“Cosplay is when people dress up as comic book characters, people dressed up in Cosplay for Black Panther,” she said. “There is a whole arena of people that do makeup for it.”
The next big thing happens February 28 in collaboration with the Dreamers Resource Center on perhaps the least noticed among them. “Undoc-Black” is an event highlighting the experience of undocumented Black students.
While there are undocumented Black students on campus working at the Dreamers center, they may not be as open about their status. In both African and Caribbean cultures, she said students are not taught to talk about their status as Latinx cultures.
“You don’t necessarily hear a lot of Black people on the front lines of DACA,” she said. “A lot of Black students feel that’s a Latino problem, but it’s not. There are a growing number of Black students in L.A., who are undocumented.”
Right now, Bryant is in her third year of the educational leadership program at Cal State University, Long Beach, working on her doctoral dissertation. She is amassing data specifically on Black women in STEM majors, who persist at a 3.0 or better.
She wants to know their experience, specifically how they respond to racism within their field of study.
Isolation can be tough.
Bryant believes a real sense of belonging is critical at any university to achieve success, and campuses must try harder to forge past the barriers.
“A lot of universities need to work on their Black enrollment, they still need to be aware that Black students are here,” she said. “I do think Cal Poly Pomona does a great job, but everyone should be critical and working toward that.”
For information on CSUSB Black History Month events, see
Or see, https://www.cpp.edu