Happy Black History Month! It’s a time to celebrate all the beautiful black culture that has shaped American history. But this year I want to delve further into how the black community has shaped the city of San Diego and UC San Diego as well as the ways you can celebrate locally.
Our campus hasn’t always had the greatest history with ensuring the needs of its black students. I, like many students of color, didn’t find out about the infamous Compton Cookout, a black-face party hosted by Pi Kappa Alpha in 2010, until after I was enrolled. There also was the controversy that arose in 1990 when Third College was named after Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and black students asked for the new college to have a similar safe space environment to historically black colleges and universities. However, this proposal did not get approved by the administration and the situation was turned into a politically incorrect satire piece that was published by the UCSD Guardian for April Fool’s Day.
While the climate on campus has definitely improved through the creation of safe spaces and having a more active Black Student Union, there definitely is room for improvement. I don’t have all the solutions to fixing black issues and creating a truly diverse environment but transparency and an open dialogue is something that I hope UCSD continues to promote in the future to address issues faced by black students. As of last year, roughly 2.6 percent of undergraduate students identify as Black/African American, which led to the creation of our sarcastic unofficial slogan of “2 percent Represent.” Simply because we are one of the smallest racial demographics on campus, however, does not mean we should let our needs be silenced.
It is important to remember our past, but we should also move forward to grow from the tragedies and injustices that happened before us. After we confront the skeletons in our closet and go on to succeed in higher education, we as a black community are fulfilling our own dreams and continue the legacy of those who paved the way for us. You should never let the color of your skin or where you are from, deter you from walking into a room to seize your moment.
Besides, not all of our history is grim, there also are plenty of incredible moments of black students making their mark here. To start, Angela Davis, a political activist and former Black Panther, attended UCSD for her graduate degree and taught philosophy classes. During her time here she stood her ground on her political stances and wasn’t afraid to call out the administration for trying to have her removed for her views. Not all our alumni are as politically inclined as Davis, but UCSD did foster some incredible black excellence such as James Avery, who played Uncle Phil on “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” and Marsha Stephanie Blake, who recently won an Emmy for her performance in Netflix’s “When They See Us.” There also is Ken Anderson, who is not only an alumnus but also the current director of the UCSD Gospel Choir (MUS 95G). I highly recommend his class for your general education requirements because it’s such a fun time.
There is no time like the present to make a difference and speak your truth at events that promote you to be your unapologetic self. All this month, the Black Resource Center, a safe space for black students created after the events of the Compton Cookout, is hosting events to celebrate. This Wednesday, Feb. 12, there is the Mid-Year Mixer at 6 p.m. This is a great chance to have dinner with other black students and faculty. They also are hosting Express Yourself: Celebrating Blackness at M.O.M. on Feb. 21, after class for good music, coffee and vibes. If you feel like venturing off campus, I highly recommend Black Xpressions in downtown San Diego. It’s an open mic night that happens every Friday night at 7 p.m., that provides a safe space to celebrate yourself as well as support black-owned businesses and vendors.
This month is all about celebrating the black community and being proud of our accomplishments. So my fellow black students and allies, I hope you learn to grow during your time here and take your time in the sun to do something beautiful.