When word came down in the early 1990s about the closure of Ford Ord, local black leaders were among the strongest advocates for the establishment of a California State University on the property that straddles Marina and Seaside. While all local communities were negatively impacted by the closure, no community was hit as hard as the local black community, primarily located in the city of Seaside. Once viewed as the most important black community between Los Angeles and Oakland and sporting a black population above 30 percent, Seaside’s black population has dwindled to a concerning 8 percent.

Fast forward 30 years and what we have left are a couple of dozen black leaders throughout the Monterey Peninsula, all in their 70s and 80s, holding together a half-dozen organizations through sheer force of will and indomitable spirit. Organizations such as the Village Project, Retired Men’s Social Club, Voter Education Center and local chapters of the NAACP.

These stalwarts continue to serve as leaders, activists and mentors within the black community and as ambassadors to the community at large. Indeed, they are still our community’s most publicly familiar names and faces: Ann Jealous, Mel and Regina Mason, Josh Stewart, Ruthie Watts, Alice Jordan, Helen Rucker, Jackie Craghead and Al Glover, to name a few.

But given their age, each year brings new losses. The last 18 months have seen the passing of Akin Miller, Mary Ellen Harris, Joe Watson, Rev. H.H. Lusk, Bishop W.W. Hamilton and Marie Sweets. With some notable exceptions, there have been few second – and third-generation leaders to whom to pass the baton.

Enter CSU Monterey Bay.

CSUMB’s All Black Gala launches the university’s 2020 Black History Month celebrations. The theme, “Still I Rise: Reclaiming Our Past and Seizing Our Futures,” signifies CSUMB’s growing acknowledgement of the contributions of local black leaders and the university’s responsibility to contribute to the revitalization of black communities as was originally intended.

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Next is Super Saturday, CSUMB’s prime recruitment event for black students, on Feb. 22, which includes a panel of student speakers and a community forum. Much has come out of the forums of the last two years. Some projects now underway include the development of joint campus/community committees on black history, a black speakers bureau and Hall of Fame; a tour of historically black churches; bimonthly black campus-community forums; and a weekly Monterey Bay Black Folks events calendar.

Committee members organizing the gala are collecting photos and biographies of leaders and organizations as part of an art exhibition that will also serve as the foundation for a growing collection of local black histories.

STEVEN GOINGS is a therapist intern and National Coalition Building Institute diversity trainer at CSUMB and a member of the Monterey County branch of NAACP. 
ALL BLACK GALA is Sunday, Feb. 16 at 5:30pm at CSUMB University Center. $10.
SUPER SATURDAY is 8:30am-noon Feb. 22 at CSUMB University Center. Free. Tickets and information at csumb.edu/pgcc/ncbi-updates.

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