The 11th annual LBCC Unity Celebration was held in the Calapooia Center last Friday from 5 to 6:30 p.m. A crowd of roughly 50 people including students, staff, faculty, and community members all gathered together in the upstairs Fireside Room.
The Unity Celebration commemorates the enthusiasm to diversify LBCC, and to shout out the outstanding abilities, character, degrees, accomplishments, and passions of students of color. Many students have fallen victim to profiling and discrimination based purely on the pigment of their skin color. This robs a person of many opportunities they might have had in their own life and is a waste of creative minds which ultimately could have benefitted other people and the community as a whole.
The Unity Celebration kicked off with a tribute to LBCC’s English Professor, Peter Bañuelos, by leaving donations and signing a card reflecting the condoleances and feeling of loss. Javier Cervantes, friend and close colleague spoke in memory of his friend and led the room in a moment of silence.
The celebration not only recognizes the accomplishments of the students of color currently enrolled in LBCC, but also highlights the struggles that minorities might face growing up in modern-day society. Speaker Terrance Harris stepped up to the podium and speaks about the times his life had been affected by discrimination, the opportunities he loses, and the path he could have taken versus the path he pushed for.
Growing up in Louisville, KY, Harris chose to use the hate and prejudice he faced as fuel to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in General Business from Western Kentucky University and a master’s in higher education in student affairs from the University of North Texas. He is the first person in his immediate family to graduate with a master’s degree when he could have easily “been capped or dealed dope on the corner,” when growing up in the projects with a single mother.
“If people tell me ‘no’, I don’t even get mad anymore. I just know that’s not for me right now,” Harris said.
Harris also acts as Assistant Director for the Wellness and Recreation at Stetson University and advises several organizations where he pushes for students to recognize who they are, what they want, and how to get it. He intends to guide young African American adults to see the potential they have by using his own story to empower and relate.
“It’s not about me; it’s about how I can impact,” said Harris. He hopes to help students of color not only accept who they are but also hopes to pass on the concept and the ability to use that empowerment as a tool for them to build others up as well.
Ramycia McGhee, a close friend of Harris, is currently an english professor at LBCC. McGhee obtained her education leadership management Ed.D, a minor in race and ethnic cultures, as well as a broadcast journalism B.A. and a journalism M.S. McGhee spoke on #blackboyjoy during the Unity Celebration which was a common theme during LBCC’s Black History Month events.
“It is a celebration of black boys who do not nearly get the credit they deserve in a society,” said McGhee, “and celebrates their accomplishments, which are sometimes robbed by poverty, drugs, gangs, discrimination. It robbed them of the boy childhood.”
#blackboyjoy brought a diverse group of African American speakers to LBCC to bring to light a few of the prejudices and complications they, as black men, face by experiencing it first hand.
Both Harris and #blackboyjoy tie in the concept of self acceptance, recognizing the barriers to overcome by being a minority, and most importantly overcoming those barriers despite starting three steps behind everyone else.
The Unity Celebration was meant to shed light on those who made and set their goals despite the independent factors of their own life on campus and in the general community. Talking about this prejudice is the first step to solving it. We must first recognize that there is an issue and recognize the first few steps to dealing with it.
“Don’t let someone pour water in your juice. You’ve got the flavor,” said Harris.
Analee Fuentes Faculty Award: Arfa Aflatooni; Student Award : Aria Smith; Staff Award: Sonya James
Winners of the Black History Month Essay Contest:
1st place, Montana Isom; 2nd place, Ar’Najae Campell; 3rd place, Lauren Dismick
Gary Westford-Robin Havenick Community Connections Awards: Joan Jones, youth advisor for the Independent Living Program, Community Services Consortium and the Albany Public Library and the City of Albany IT Department award.
Story and Photos by McKenna Christmas