OC Hosts Black History Month Campus Events
By Dianne Anderson
Black inventors, doctors, engineers and mathematicians have inspired and shaped the entire planet since the dawn of humankind, which was enough realization to spark a lifelong inspiration for history speaker Jamaal Brown.
This month, Brown is hitting 13 events at schools and campuses across SoCal for Black History Month, including Santa Ana College where he shares his 365 Knowledge Bowl that holds enough Black facts to last every day of the year, and then some.
In honor of Black History Month and keeping students safe, this year is more virtual than usual, but the shows will go on. His Jeopardy-style competition invites students for a chance to win cash, trophies and prizes awarded to top point-getters with a knack for Black history facts.
But he feels the most important takeaway from the event is the definition of resilience.
He is on a mission to remind students that Black people are the world’s first peoples, representing eons of ingenuity and skill.
“We have demonstrated capacity to overcome any and everything. We are a resilient people, a dignified people. I don’t think a pandemic or anything else has the power to take us out,” said Brown, a history lecturer and founder of Black 365 Knowledge Bowl.
From forced marches through the interior Africa to the coast to the dungeons and horrid gallows of months on the high seas in coming to America, he said that Black people have endured it all.
“We overcame and found a way to see it through on those plantations during reconstruction, during Black Codes, during civil rights,” he said.
Much of his inspiration to bring presentations to local schools and colleges started with his own limited view of the world growing up in Lancaster. There was a lot of crime, and not a lot of personal choices. One fourth-grade assignment was to create a list of four potential career choices.
Back then, his options were clear. He could be a drug dealer, a gang member, an athlete, or an entertainer.
“My father had been shot and I had a second-hand view of what the bullet could do to flesh, so I scratched that off the list,” he said.
Playing basketball was doable until he developed a serious heart condition, but with no games or tournaments, he picked up books instead. For the first time in readings on Malcolm X, the Nile, Marcus Garvey, he discovered people who looked like him had accomplished greatness that he didn’t see in school textbooks.
“All these wonderful things sparked a fire in me. I started using the same energy that I used to use on the basketball court. I became Lancaster High’s first Black valedictorian,” said Brown, who earned his degree in Information Technology from California State University, Long Beach.
Brown was accepted at eight universities and received about 50,000 in scholarships. Today, he continues supporting young Black men as an advisor at Antelope Valley College, working with school districts and community nonprofits. Through his projects, he also helps raise funds for Black scholarships.
Most of all, he believes that students must learn and become Black excellence, recognizing their ancestors powered through the worst of times known to humanity.
He feels that Black students need to know they are enough.
“Our ancestors, those who were enslaved who endured and overcame the holocaust of enslavement had it far worse. What they faced is far more treacherous and far more damaging than what it is that we are going through,” he said.
For Black History Month, the Black Thriving Initiative at the University of California, Irvine, is also hosting several virtual events. Among them, on Monday, February 21, “Binding Blacks: Du Bois and Camus on Engaging the World” features Anthony Pinn, the Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Humanities and Professor of Religious Studies at Rice University. The event runs from 4-5:15 p.m.
Other events continue on February 23, “White Like Me: Race, Racism & White Privilege in America Film Screen,” runs from 5:00 -7:00 pm., and moderated by Kusum Crimmel, LCSW, founder/creator of Dissecting Whiteness.
On Thursday, February 24, students and the community can ponder the timelessness of racism in the critically acclaimed documentary about the civil rights activist and orator, James Baldwin and his life’s work in “I am Not Your Negro.” That event runs from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Also upcoming at Fullerton College, the Umoja Community Program is packing back-to-back events, including on how California Community College Students can get their Guaranteed Admission to Historically Black Colleges and Universities. That seminar runs from 1:00-2:30 p.m
On Feb. 28, Noon to 2:00 p.m., the campus winds down with the Beat Café: Open Mic, hosted by the Cadena Cultural Center and Umoja Community Program where students from all of the North Orange Community College District continue the creativity with spoken word, dance and music.
Kyari Cail said that this month’s lineup, their Umoja Community Program, Cadena Cultural Center, and Grads to Be Program is “flipping the narrative” of Black History Month this year. Their events are keeping things in a positive light to empower the students and community.
“We’re highly aware of the challenges everyone is facing right now due to COVID-19, and we just want to offer a counter-narrative to that; really commemorate the beauty we are experiencing as individuals and as a collective,” she said.
For dates and times:
RSVP other virtual BHM events at SAC College,https://sac.edu/StudentServices/StudentLife/Pages/BlackHistoryMonth.aspx
RSVP Upcoming UCI Black Thriving Events, see
RSVP Fullerton events, see