Welcome Black 2021: A virtual gathering of unity, support


Anais Covarrubias

“Party” by Beyonce featuring J. Cole played in the background transitioning to Saweetie’s recent release, “Back to the Streets,” while 95 participants settled in. The event was co-hosted by Racquel Holloway, bottom right, and and Simone LaBon on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021.

Anais Covarrubias, reporter

The Black Student Leadership Council presented their virtual version of their annual Welcome Black via Zoom Wednesday. BLC President Racquel Holloway and National Panhellenic Council President Simone LaBon co-hosted the event and introduced the Black campus leaders.

CSUN’s new President Erika D. Beck attended the event to stand in solidarity with the Black campus community.

“I’m really delighted to see such a broad expansive programs dedicated to celebrating the richness of diversity that our students, faculty and staff bring into our academic community,” said Beck. “And it’s so important especially for students that we embrace all of you holistically and facilitate a sense of belonging and community.”

Holloway welcomed Black student leaders and alumni from California State University Los Angeles, Dominguez Hill and San Diego State University.

This event aimed to help the community navigate the new norms of life during the COVID-19 pandemic by providing the tools necessary for students to lead a successful academic semester.

BLC serves as the foundation for all 16 Black-led organizations on campus, ensuring Black student voices are represented and heard.

LaBon introduced representatives of each club who shared their organization’s mission and how students are able to join.

There are a variety of organizations for Black students on campus that not only provide academic resources but serve as a family away from home. The overall mission of these organizations is to create a safe and welcoming environment for the Black community.

Organizations like Faithful Black Women and Faithful Black Men focus on the betterment of Black individuals on campus by creating unity through sisterhood and brotherhood. They focus on providing a safe space for the community where Black individuals can have healthy dialogues on issues such as toxic masculinity and self-empowerment.

The Black Signers Club, led by President Tyra White, shed light on the Black deaf community for Black History Month. They are dedicated to giving a platform to those who don’t have the same opportunities as the hearing community and the white deaf community.

After the introduction of the organizations,the meeting broke off into three workshops: Step into 2021, Boss Talk: Vision Boards and Hustle & Motivate: BSU Leader’s Panel.

Step Into 2021 was a hip-hop dance class led by student Elizabeth Taylor.

The Welcome Black event had two American Sign Language interpreters, Angellé and Emy, so that the event was accessible for the deaf community. (Anais Covarrubias)

Alumni Kallyn Ryan and Nikiko Brunett, who ran the Boss Talk: Vision Boards, walked participants through how to create a vision board with their goals this year and how they can manifest them.

Hustle & Motivate was a panel of Black leaders from different campuses — Olani LaBeaud from CSUN, Kalani Robinson from Cal State L.A., Mabel Dugbartey from San Diego State and Shannon McKenzie from Cal State Dominguez Hills — who shared their experiences and how they are navigating their lives throughout the pandemic. The panel was moderated by CSUN lecturer Melanie Shaw who created organic conversations by allowing participants to chime in on the barriers they’ve overcome.

Throughout the meeting, the chat was filled with messages of empowerment. Kennedy Boyd, the president of San Diego State’s Afrikan Student Union, said she was inspired by the support and unity CSUN Black students and faculty had and hoped to recreate it at her campus.

“What a fabulous program we’re having this afternoon the Black Student Leadership Council has really got it going on, it’s so encouraging so many outstanding leaders out tonight creating all the Black experience for our students here at Cal State Northridge,” Vice President of Student Affairs William Watkins said. “We thank you for creating community for our students, particularly in this pandemic space that we’re in.”

Holloway and LaBon thanked everyone for attending the event while informing them to refer to the Africana Studies Department’s event calendar for more information on upcoming events they can attend.

They emphasized the importance of supporting Black-owned businesses and led by example by raffling off turbans and durags from Atira Lyons, a fashion store on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles.

For more information on upcoming Black History Month events, visit the Department of Africana Studies’s website.