Students, faculty and staff celebrated the culmination of CSUN’s Black History Month with a festive gala, Feb. 28 in the University Student Union’s Northridge Center. The party, complete with dinner and a talent show, capped more than a dozen programs throughout the month, highlighting the contributions of Black Americans and African Americans.

Gala tables were decorated with vibrant batik prints and strewn with buttons with quotes from famous Black leaders. Brightly colored balloons decorated the room and posters focused on famous acts of resistance — the theme of this year’s Black History Month. CSUN President Erika D. Beck gave an opening address, noting the very appropriate theme for Northridge.

“Since the 1960s, students here at Cal State Northridge have been engaged in being part of the solution by resisting the status quo. By resisting underrepresentation, resisting marginalization, resisting exclusion and demanding change,” Beck said.

She noted the protests on campus more than 50 years ago, known as “The Storm at Valley State,” that led to significant changes on campus — including the creation of what is now known as Africana Studies, as well as Chicana/o Studies and expansion of the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP).

“We have a lot more work to do,” Beck said, “and I am tremendously grateful to be part of this academic community, joined by all of you, the leaders we need to co-create a future where everyone has the opportunity to thrive. Together, we stand unwavering in our commitment to accelerating authentic equity across every dimension of identity and lived experience.”

A talent show featuring singing and spoken-word performances by students, faculty and alumni was a highlight of the evening. Ellisa McKissic, a graduating senior in cinema and television arts, served as one of the student emcees. She told the audience how much she appreciates the sense of community created by the faculty and staff in the Department of Africana Studies.

“I’m appreciating how much it takes to actually matriculate all the way through and how much support, guidance and love that all of us are getting from the Africana Studies department,” McKissic said.

Campus events celebrating Black History Month included film screenings, musical performances and lectures, as well as moderated discussions with Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones and hip-hop pioneer Grandmaster Melle Mel.

Departments, student organizations and clubs across campus organized the events in honor of Black History Month, said Marquita Gammage, Africana Studies department chair. Black history, she said, should be taught all year long.

“It’s a great opportunity to learn American history, world history, and to really understand African Americans and African people’s contributions to the world, because Black history is world history,” Gammage said.

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