CSULB celebrates heritage and achievements during Black History Month
Cynthia Ray-de la Vega ‘22 aspires to help other women who have been previously incarcerated.
And she’s determined to enable others to learn from her own experiences.
Ray-de la Vega found support from the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) and Guardian Scholars, as well Project Rebound and the McNair Scholars Program during her time as an undergraduate in social work at CSULB.
“I just decided I was going to go all-in,” said the second-year graduate student in social work. “I dropped the shame, my ego. I realized that I am here to grow, be a new person, be a better person. I allowed myself to accept help and guidance from other people. I was open to the process of whatever I could do to learn.”
Black History Month was officially established nationwide in February 1976, under President Gerald Ford. Cal State Long Beach has been recognizing Black History Month every February for decades, hosting panels, workshops, guest speakers and social events throughout campus – and online during the pandemic.
“Black history and culture is something we should celebrate every day, every month,” said Paul Carter, assistant director of the Black Resource Center at The Beach. “We should acknowledge the achievements, culture and accomplishments within the Black community. We want students to feel seen and celebrated, but we want the entire campus community to be involved. In celebrating Black culture, we can see the ways that all communities have interlocking struggles toward advancement.”
Some highlights of Black History Month at The Beach include a cookout on the USU North Lawn on Feb. 7, the 25th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration in the USU Ballroom on Feb. 8, a Black STEM history celebration on Feb. 24, and Super Sunday, an event with faith-based leaders organized by the CSU Chancellor’s Office that will take place in churches in Long Beach and throughout California on Feb. 25.
The special guest participating in a “fireside chat” during the King celebration will be Jaaye Person-Lynn, a Los Angeles lawyer who has made a career as a criminal defense attorney, while also speaking out on social media against injustice and police brutality.
The theme of the Feb. 8 MLK event will be “Dream Forward: Making Change & Shaping the Future,” a discussion of how the current generation can carry on King’s message of having an impact on the country and the world.
Person-Lynn said he believes in King’s ideals of inclusivity and the uniting of all peoples. But he also wants to stress that African Americans should be wise about spending their money, and should choose to invest in businesses who ally with the Black community.
“The spending power of the Black community is $1.2 trillion or $3 trillion – that’s where our vote matters the most, even more so than in the ballot box,” he said.
As far as a life philosophy, he said, “What works for me is not being aggressive or violent, but moving in love and letting love guide it. Not letting my hate for my enemy being the motivating factor.”