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CSULB celebrates Black History Month with #BlackHerStories event

Organizers aimed to create a safe and brave place.

%23BlackHerStories+offered+students+the+chance+to+connect+with+each+other+and+share+personal+stories.
#BlackHerStories offered students the chance to connect with each other and share personal stories.

#BlackHerStories offered students the chance to connect with each other and share personal stories.

Christine Banuelos

Christine Banuelos

#BlackHerStories offered students the chance to connect with each other and share personal stories.

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An illustration of a woman with a perfectly coiffed afro, layered atop a magenta background, was projected against a large wall in the University Student Union ballroom Tuesday evening as organizers welcomed attendees to this year’s #BlackHerStories event.

President Jane Close Conoley was among those in attendance and participated alongside the women chanting phrases such as “I release anything that does not serve me or deserve me,” and “I am whole and complete.”

The event celebrated the beauty of #blackgirlmagic and created a safe place to discuss the struggles associated with identifying as a black female in 2018. The “black girl magic” hashtag was created by CaShawn Thompson in 2013 to celebrate black women.

The event was held in observance of Black History Month, and was organized by the Office of Multicultural Affairs in correlation with the Black Leadership Council and the Office of Student Conduct and Ethical Development.

The night began with Lauren-Michelle Hardge, one of the event’s organizers and the university’s Guardian Scholars Resource Program Specialist leading the crowd of 30 women through an activity she called “Goddess Affirmations,” where women spoke empowering statements to one another.

Jessica Nwabuzor, a sophomore majoring in health science, said this helped changed her expectations for the evening.

“I definitely came in with kind of a closed mind,” Nwabuzor said. “But then they started the positive affirmations. I never do that, but I know of it. It helped me to open up in the beginning.”

Things progressed as organizers introduced an interactive guessing game that highlighted influential female figures of the black community such as Rosa Parks, Assata Shakur, Solange Knowles and Rihanna.

“We don’t necessarily want a history lesson tonight, but we do want to pay homage,” Hardge said, referring to the figures displayed against the colorful magenta backdrop.

The energy of the room shifted when attendees were asked to form a large circle and begin a collaborative conversation about identity, esteem and self-preservation. Personal stories and tears were shared among the women. Not one woman’s tears went without another standing  to offer a tissue or an embrace.

Kyari Cail, co-organizer of the event and student development fellow in the Division of Student Affairs, shared that establishing a safe space for young black women was her top priority when coordinating this event.

“I think first and foremost, I wanted to accomplish establishing a space,” Cail said. “And what I mean by space — I kept reiterating it throughout the night, is a safe space and a brave space.”

Throughout the entirety of the evening Patience Bryant, director of the Office of Student Conduct and Ethical Development, and Terri Armstrong, communications coordinator at the Career Development Center, encouraged the women to utilize the resources on campus, especially counseling.

The support provided by the faculty and fellow participants was felt by many of the attendees of the event.  

Ebony Blaine, a junior majoring in health science with an option in community health, said the event helped her fit in on campus.

“There’s a trust between the staff represented here today,” Blaine said. “That helps us feel safe. You feel like you’re in a place where you’re accepted versus other communities where you may not always be accepted. It’s hard to find your spot. I feel like I’m a puzzle piece and this is where I fit in.”

#BlackHerStories was the third event hosted by the Office of Multicultural Affairs’ Black History Month celebration and will be followed by the third Annual Martin Luther King Day of Service Feb. 16 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

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