Cal Poly Asks ‘What is Black?’

By Sarita Chandanani

Black History Month, which began on Feb. 1, is celebrated
throughout the country and especially at Cal Poly, with the African
American Student Center planning extensive events.

“It was an amazing experience for me,” said Janette Valdez, a
fifth-year marketing student. “I’ve always heard about Black
History Month but never attended the events. I’m glad I came this
year because it really made an impact on me and my development in

This year’s theme is “What is Black?”

Since many students here on campus have a variety of definitions
associated with the term, this month will help to reveal the
diversity amongst Cal Poly’s black community.

This year’s opening ceremony was held in the Bronco Student
Center. The Centaurus room was filled with students of all cultural
and racial backgrounds supporting the struggle of black Americans
throughout the decades. Muslim students were especially prevalent
at the ceremony in support of their peers. The seats were scarce
though many did not mind standing to show their support.

The keynote speaker recited a motivational speech that grabbed
the entire audience as they gained a perspective on what it meant
to be a black student in the U.S. and the many responsibilities
associated with making a difference in society. All students in
attendance regardless of skin color could relate to keynote speaker
Amir Ali’s speech urging them to look beyond what is directly in
front of them and to reach for change amongst today’s youth.

“You cannot understand tomorrow until you understand what
happened yesterday,” said Ali.

Students gave Ali a standing ovation for his inspirational

“This is a time to reconnect and discuss issues that impact the
African American community,” said La’ Keisha Gilford-Beard,
director of the African American Student Center.

The committee first honored black Americans who have been
victims of racial hate crimes in the U.S. and exemplified the
continuing struggle many black Americans must go through on a daily

The crowd was silent as the presentation of the victims played
and everyone paid tribute to their lives with their compassion.

In 1926, Dr. Carter G. Woodson established a week-long
celebration in the middle of February to honor black history,
according to Beard.

“In the 1970’s, the entire month was dedicated to pursue a
collaboration of events to exhibit admiration of African Americans
throughout history.”

Black history awareness is programmed for the entire month of
February and will close on Mar. 1 with an event to honor
influential elders in the lives of students.

Booker T. Washington’s granddaughter, Sarah O’Neil, is scheduled
to speak at the closing ceremony.

Sarita Chandanani can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at (909) 869-3747.

Cal Poly Asks

Cal Poly Asks ‘What is Black?’

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