Black History Month Wraps Up
By Dianne Anderson
A whirlwind of Black History Month festivities will wrap up next week with one last breakout of acclaimed films and speakers to help elevate social consciousness in the area.
Blockbuster films are sparking marvelous conversations at Valley College, while an upcoming Black Excellence Educational Event, now in its second year, is creating superheroes in their own right.
High schoolers are off to Valley College by the busloads to learn about their college experience, and how to stick with their post-secondary education to completion. As part of the outreach, one goal is making Black students aware that they can take classes at Valley College at the same time as they finish up high school.
Keynasia Buffong said many students don’t realize they can work concurrently to finish their associate degree, or at least have it nearly completed, by the time they graduate high school.
“This is something that African American students don’t take advantage of, or haven’t been aware of,” said Buffong, SBVC Career and Transfer Counselor.
“We try to make it fun. We do have a live DJ. Instead of boxed lunches, Carl’s Jr. will bring the truck out and give them lunch. We have a resource fair,” she said.
All schools within the San Bernardino Unified School District are invited to the event, which is specifically marketed to African American students. Rialto Unified is also bringing students from their high schools.
She said it’s a major opportunity for students to connect with Black faculty and staff at the college, and know they can turn to familiar faces for support. Over the years, the college has developed outreach for Black students, along with intensive support services aimed at retention and matriculation.
“The Umoja-Tumaini Program, specifically targets African American students to help them matriculate and get through community college. With that program, we want to make sure they stay connected to the people and resources,” she said.
Buffong, who is also a former high school counselor, said the campus offers many fast-tracked programs and certificates for entry-level positions, and tech-related choices.
“You can get in and get a certificate, or you can transfer to a university, like Berkeley,” she said. “That happens on a regular basis.”
The college is also tying up its month-long Black film festival.
On Thursday, February 21, students go behind the scenes of hate with Spike Lee’s academy award nominated BlacKkKlansman, a true story of the undercover Black cop that hacked meetings with Grand Dragon David Duke and the rest of the Klan. That event runs 6-9:00 p.m. in the Library Viewing Room (LIB-149).
On Wednesday, February 27, the originator of the Kwanzaa celebration, Dr. Maulana Karenga, presents his guiding principles on African American community empowerment. That event runs 6-8:00 p.m. in the auditorium.
On Thursday, February 28, SBVC Black film festival concludes with the greatest grossing superhero movie of all time, Marvel’s Black Panther, screened at the Library Viewing Room (LIB-149) from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m.
Also in San Bernardino, the community is invited to reflect on the diversity of Black leadership that helped establish the foundation of the civil rights movement. The speakers look to two distinctly different religious backgrounds, Christianity and the Muslim faith, and how both groups made phenomenal inroads in the fight for justice.
At the Sahaba Institute, this year’s annual gathering for Black History Month features community advocate, Robert Earl Bogen Sr., co-founder of the Interfaith Council, who will share his lifelong perspective of the changing political landscape, and divisions that continue between Christian and Muslim faiths.
Margari Aziza Hill, co-founder and managing director of the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative, will also cover her work and life experiences in fighting extreme hate against Black Muslims.
On Saturday, February 23, the event is hoped to open dialogue to the audience, focused on “Make the Days Count” in strengthening community and leadership. The event is held from 6-9:00 p.m. at 1887 Business Center Drive, Suite 3a in San Bernardino.
For the Sahaba Institute, this year’s theme is an everyday challenge in San Bernardino.
Arbazz Mohammed, co-founder of the organization, said it’s all about getting food and resources to the community. Every Saturday, the food pantry is open to all in need from noon to 2:00 p.m., along with help filling out applications for CalFresh.
“It’s serving the people that are vulnerable, directly through our food pantry every week, through our financial assistance, our empowerment classes and support groups, and staying connected,” he said.
There is also a need to bridge different aspects within the Muslim community, who are often an outlier to services, to get them connected to local resources. But, he adds that the food pantry and all their many resources are open for the entire community.
Historically, he said the civil rights movement has expanded activism to where it is today, despite the split under the two religious bases.
Ultimately, it is toward one goal.
“You had people coming out of the Christian tradition, and Muslim tradition, those were two of the largest segments of the civil rights movement,” he said. “This is a unifying effort from different faith traditions continuing the historic legacy.”