Black Empowerment Week promotes change

By Zara Hurtado

With his back to an array of photos spanning centuries of the shared histories between Africans and Latinos, professor Ron Wilkins began his lecture with an African proverb: “If we stand tall, it is because we stand on the shoulders of many ancestors.”

Wilkins joined Cal Poly Pomona’s African American Student Center in celebrating Black Empowerment Week Wednesday with a lecture titled, “Black and Brown Unity.”

The week-long celebration of Black history and community-building began on April 8.

Co-sponsored by the Cesar E. Chavez Center for Higher Education and the Black Business Student Association, AASC hoped to create conversations about race, social justice, identity and leadership through these events.

Events throughout Black Empowerment Week included Paint the CPP Letters, Paint N’ Sip Tea: Black Power Images, African Dance and Drum Circle, Black and Brown Unity lecture, a talent show and a Freshman Party social mixer.

“These events being open to the entire campus allow us as Black people to share our talent and our beauty with the rest of the people here on campus so we can shorten the gap of division we have,” said AASC Social Justice Leader LeQuan Hobson.

Pachet Bryant, a fourth-year apparel merchandising and management student, attended both the African Dance and Drum Circle and the Black and Brown Unity lecture.

“We need more of these events; there is a reason a divide was established between our people,” Bryant said. “Once we actively listen and research into the cause and our history, the breakdown of that barrier can begin. That’s when real change will occur within both communities as a whole.”

The Black and Brown Unity lecture took place in the middle of Black Empowerment Week at the Bronco Student Center in Ursa Major.

A retired Africana studies professor from Cal State Dominguez Hills, Wilkins lectures at different universities, bringing his message of strengthening friendship and support between Black and Brown communities.

The lecture traced the history of Africans and Afro-Latinos in Mexico, starting in the 1600s throughout the course of Mexico’s fight for independence.

Accompanied by historical photographs, Wilkins stressed the importance of Black and Brown unity starts with both communities understanding their shared histories.

“We don’t tend to hear these historical facts about how Black and Brown people were unifying to do great things since the 1800s, or how Black people were influencing the history of Mexicans,” Hobson said. “We still live in this ignorance that Black and Brown people aren’t going to get along.”

He added, “This event helps members of the Black and Brown communities come together and realize that we do share the same struggle, for the most part. We do need to unify in order for us to gain any progress in America.”

With an extensive background in social justice and activism, Wilkins encouraged students to vocalize their concerns and get involved with politics in order to enact viable social change.

“You can teach this history,” Wilkins said. “Teach yourselves the history before you act, it’s important to organize and straighten people out.”

Wilkins ended the lecture with a Q&A session where students were invited to ask questions and open further conversations on how members of the Black and Brown communities can continue to support each other in productive ways.

Professor Rob Wilkins during his "Black and Brown Unity" lecture.

Ryan Hickey / The Poly Post

Professor Rob Wilkins during his “Black and Brown Unity” lecture.

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