By R. Ray Robinson Staff Writer
Why honor black history? Because celebrating our partner with hugs, kisses and chocolate in February is not enough. Black History Month is to remember the accomplishments of those who came before us.
The month commemorates Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and the former President Barack Obama. Or does it?
The president of Cal State Long Beach’s Black Student Union (BSU) Xavier Rogers thinks otherwise. He claims that these people do not personify the entire month and what it stands for. Xavier, a senior double majoring in Political Science and Africana Studies, instead gains consciousness through his education and by working with the BSU to rebuild his community.
Xavier works hard to honor his people. While leading BSU, he successfully organized the Black Consciousness Conference last fall. The event’s keynote speaker, Br. Polight, spoke about helping communities live better by improving education. A panel with radio personality Zaza Ali also occurred as well as workshops on eating healthy, money management and other useful topics.
Xavier also reaches out to Long Beach high school students at Millikan, Wilson and Long Beach Polytechnic High School to help encourage them to continue their education.
“Many students don’t have outreach advisors that look like them offer organizational skills to become leaders so I wanted to inspire them to become kings and queens in academia and the world,” said Xavier.
Xavier has expressed his love for Marcus Garvey. Garvey was a leader who emphasized worldwide unity for all African peoples, also known as Pan-Africanism. He was also the founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Committee League (UNIA-ACL) during the 1920s Harlem Renaissance.
Garvey’s teachings from “The Philosophies and Opinions of Marcus Garvey” include self-reliance, global financial stability for black communities and black pride. He encouraged resourceful black men and women to journey back to the motherland in Africa to build a utopia for themselves. However, due to debt, controversy with the law and the white community, Garvey’s movement disbanded.
Nevertheless, Garvey’s legacy inspired many leaders and organizations to fight for freedom, including Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Ghana’s first President Kwame Nkrumah, psychologist Dr. Umar Johnson, Kendrick Lamar, and Xavier himself.
“As BSU president, I want to implement more organizational skills to provide more events for students to succeed,” said Xavier.
Xavier’s goal is to help continue the legacy of human rights and black self-esteem.
When asked about Black History Month, Xavier said:
“Black History Month is every day. Everyone should learn about our ancestors paving the way for us to be here today. America gave us this month. However, don’t let America fool you into not celebrating black excellence every day. Try to read books from prominent black people, then use black history to educate the world.”
Xavier wants people to change for the better. To do this, he encourages learning about his history and about diverse groups of people.
Although Black History Month centers on black people, it should be celebrated by all. It should never be limited to key figures like Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks or Barack Obama.
The month represents so many more people: astronomer Benjamin Banneker, businesswoman Madam C.J. Walker, African King Mansa Musa and others.
It represents the sacrifices made by freedom fighters for the pursuit of the American dream.
So instead of celebrating Black History Month as just a “month,” celebrate it as a way of life as it is — American history from the African American experience.
By John Mueller Graphics Illustrator
There are tens of thousands of students attending Cal State Long Beach this year, and these are the last few months that Andre Ajibade will be counted in their numbers. Graduating in May with a Bachelor’s degree in Drawing and Painting, he is about begin something new. Unlike others getting their degree however, Andre has already spent decades in a career that he loves.
Andre was a designer. He created clothing in the 80s and, after that, he worked in the toy development department for Mattel. On the side, he painted, something he had enjoyed his whole life. But in the mid-2000s, like many people during the recession, he was laid off.
With employers favoring young college-educated people, his search for employment was tremendously difficult. Then a close friend of his convinced him to go back to school. Andre was reluctant at first, thinking himself too old.
“He said something interesting,” said Andre, “He said education is for life, and so I decided hey, let’s go.”
Andre loved his late mom and dad, Gloria and Olubumni. They have always been his role models and personal heroes, it’s not something he shies away from saying. Some of his paintings openly display this adoration.
His parents met at UCLA, where they went to college. Andre’s father was Nigerian, and had to go back to his home country after he graduated. Because of this, Andre didn’t meet him until he was four when he and his mom moved to Nigeria. His dad worked for IMBM, while his mom was an educator, and Andre’s first teacher.
“My parents had class and that would mean traveling and reaching out and thinking outside (with) more of a world eclectic style mentality,” said Andre. “And I am very grateful to them for that.”
Andre says he had the best childhood because of them and that he wants to emulate their generosity by helping others. He wants to lend his assistance and experience to anyone in need, especially those younger than him pursuing artistic careers. He has helped one of his fellow students, Elmer, gain recognition in Los Angeles.
Andre is quite involved in the L.A. art scene himself, which is how he is able to provide assistance to others. Since 2006 he has been sending in his work to the town hall for Black History Month for the city’s annual booklet “The African American Cultural Guide.”
When Andre was younger, he painted about sports. That started to change after he read a TIME magazine on the Lost Boys of Sudan in the 90’s. Since then his work reflects more about his heritage. Most recently, he has been working on a series of paintings titled “Black Lives Too.”
“I’ve traveled the world, and people here have this America number one, freedom democracy, and sometimes as an American my experience has not been that. And so that’s become some of the areas that I want to express myself in my art,” said Andre.
In these paintings, he expresses his anger for the killings of unarmed African Americans by police.
Andre’s work will be on display for one week in May for the Bachelor of Fine Arts group show, in the Gatov gallery at CSULB.