Campus event celebrates black female history
Event coordinators, organization representatives, and guest speakers collectively gave speeches and artistic performances touching upon such topics as education, gender, and racial divides (Liz Campos/Union Weekly)
By Liz Campos Staff Writer
In lieu of Black History Month, the office of Multicultural Affairs of Cal State University, Long Beach put together a series of events as a celebration.
On Monday, Feb. 15, #BlackHerStories took place in the University Student Union Ballrooms. The event was a collaboration of both the Multicultural Affairs office and the Women’s and Gender Equity center to celebrate and recognize black women.
Under the statement “Because behind every strong movement lies a strong black woman,” the event consisted on an open space in which the performers were able to showcase their experiences through spoken word poetry, essays and stories.
Event coordinator Jonathan Higgins began by thanking those who attended as well as recognizing the team that helped organized #BlackHerStories.
Following Higgins, Desiré Campusano, the graduate student assistant of the Women’s and Gender Equity Center explained that this is the first time the university has been able to support this initiative.
“We can’t celebrate history without ‘her story,’” she said.
As an activist, mother, community organizer and original member of the Black Lives Matter movement, keynote speaker Shamell Bell explained her experiences to the audience. Her stories ranged from her journey as a student as well as an activist and a black woman in general.
“I theorize through my body,” she said as she explained what she calls “street dance activism” and her involvement in it.
Upon making emphasis on her organizing with the Black Lives Matter movement and how she became radicalized by the experiences that as a black woman she has gone through, she said that her “vision is to viciously attack the detrimental practices and policies that disadvantage the poor and people of color.”
After making a connection with the audience through her stories, Bell then opened up the door for the performances of the night. Eight black women shared fragments of their lives through art in the form of spoken word poetry and story telling.
First was Alisia Thompson, a current coordinator for the Student Life and Development office at California State University, Long Beach. Prior to reciting her spoken word poetry, Thompson gave the audience an insight of what her passion is; education.
With her experience as a high school biology teacher, Thompson recognized that the way the educational system works is not what it ideally is supposed to be.
“I’m working for the devil and have no control” she said. The idea of students being dollar signs is something that she finds conflict with and expressed her feelings in her poem “Just a teacher.” In the midst of the controversy created by how the black community is portrayed by the media, white supremacy as well as police brutality were omnipresent topics in some of the artists’ performances.
Brittany Coleman and Jada Johnson incorporated snippets of her experiences with police brutality leading to the loss of a significant other. As a sensitive topic, the moments in which this was discussed brought tears and emotions to members of the audience Performer Jay Dent shed light on the topic of the Latino culture also being a victim of police brutality. In her poetry, she incorporated Spanish words that made some Latino members of the audience feel more connected to her words.
Alisia Thompson explained that the diversity in the room as well as the messages transmitted through the work of all the artists that night made her realized that “activism can play so many different roles, in different ways.”
“I hope that events like these continue to happen because I think it really brings the cohesiveness to the campus body in a way that is so necessary,” said Thompson.
Organizers as well as performers are proud and satisfied of the turnout of #BlackHerStories and hope to do it again, not only for Black History month but for cultural awareness as a whole.