At the Launch Symposium for Cal Poly Pomona’s Black Thriving Initiative, Provost Jennifer Brown and President Soraya M. Coley wove their personal stories in with a collective call to action – the university can, and must, do better to ensure all Black faculty, staff, and students thrive.
A crowd of about 140 attended the sold-out event held in the Bronco Student Center on Dec. 8. Online participants also viewed portions of the symposium via livestream.
“We know how to work together to solve complex problems and I’m confident this is no exception,” Brown said. “We can change our campus culture, our state, and our nation and it starts right here – with the power of one.”
The initiative was developed after listening sessions and data from a recent Black student, staff, and faculty wellbeing assessment revealed deeply troubling statistics – including that 87 percent of Black students indicated they feel they cannot be their authentic selves at the institution without fear of repercussion.
As a result, students had a prominent voice at the symposium. Third year student Ryan Beacham (Ace) shared his personal experiences as a Black student through a spoken word performance and urged the crowd to join. Fifth year student Justyn Fulton took the podium to share his own reality as a Black student at CPP, using his experiences to highlight the importance of the initiative.
“We’ve been seeing a lot of run around,” said Fulton. “We as students need to truly thrive. Not only thrive, but flourish.”
Prior to joining one of three concurrent breakout sessions on a variety of topics, attendees heard from Tawana Parks, dean of students at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, who delivered the keynote address that featured a poem she wrote earlier in her career.
Breakout sessions were led by Rigoberto Marquez, director of the Centers for Transformation, Retention, Equity and Empowerment (TREE), and guests David Turner and Godfrey Santos Plaza. The sessions allowed attendees to actively participate and discuss topics including racial healing and truth telling, racial justice language, and allyship and advocacy.
As the event concluded, a collective excitement to begin the work outlined in phase one, building capacity and consciousness, served as a reminder that this is only the beginning.
“We must challenge ourselves daily to promote equity, justice, and inclusion in our classrooms, programs, units, meetings, budgets, promotions, interactions, policies, and procedures. I believe with all of us working together that a brighter day is on the horizon,” said Jonathan Grady, senior associate vice president and dean of students and co-chair of the BTI working group.
Now that the initiative has launched, continued involvement from the entire campus community remains critical. Beginning in January, virtual and in-person general feedback sessions will begin.
Additionally, you can join the BTI mailing list to receive frequent updates and involvement opportunities going forward. Visit the Black Thriving Initiative website for more information at www.cpp.edu/bti.