by Robyn Jones
photography by Armida Carranza
All across the world, the Black community is a strong family-oriented group of people. The hardships our Boomer generation grandparents faced brings sense and reason as to why the community always needs to look out for each other. In fact, a “kinda, sort of” is a summation of what Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z say now of their relatives in the Baby Boom Generation regarding whether positive change is just now—perhaps—moving in the right direction regarding racism and seeing the Black community as “people.”
An important time in history for most African American civilians was the Civil Rights Movement dating back to the 1950s, which was a protest for most African American citizens in the United States to abolish segregation, discrimination and disenfranchisement throughout the states. It was a start, but now it does not have a finish line in sight. Present day, Black History Month is important to the Black community because it focuses on the contributions of African Americans in the United States from different points of history. With protests, riots, “#BLM,” and “#Justiceforall” happening, February 2022 Black History month felt more personal, more real and more important than others.
Coming to the University of La Verne as a Black student from a diverse Stockton, California, high school, my biggest fear was being the minority among other minorities. Once I arrived on campus, I received many emails about events for Black students, and for the many other activities taking place on campus. The students involved in the Black community said, “Hi” to each other; it was a welcoming environment. Immediately, I felt at home at the University of La Verne. The University tries to recognize the students’ needs in the Black community as a whole. Four members of the Black community share their views regarding racism and being seen as a person.
Associate Director of Multicultural Affairs and Black Student Affairs
Misty Levingston says she has made it a point to make sure all the Black students on campus are welcomed and at home on campus. With her sweet soul, she shares that the people she looks up to are herself, friends and family.
Her role on campus calls for her to work in the multicultural services area and also in Black Student Affairs. Her schedule is always busy, and she is always on her feet making sure all students feel welcome and comfortable at the University. For Misty, that means she develops programmatic initiative to serve the Black community, which in turn increases the retention of Black graduates. “I create programs to build communities such as our own event: the welcome back Black BBQ, which is an event for the Black community that anyone can attend,” she says. “In the beginning of the year, we had the Rites of Passage event that welcomed the new Black students into the community.” Starting next semester fall 2022, Misty is starting a forum for Black students to discover what needs they may have. Since Black students make up a small community at ULV, Misty is doing hard work to help grow the Black community on campus.
Resident Adviser Supervisor, Oaks Residence Hall
Now, not everything is perfect. It would be not truthful to say the University does not occasionally have its troubles with racism. Some students can be insensitive and ruthless. Brannon Andrews, as a Black resident adviser also matriculated in the ULV graduate program, has experienced firsthand what students on campus are capable of doing to harm each other, and what they deal with on the other end. It is sometimes saddening.
In the Fall 2021 semester, all current RAs were notified about a racist incident on campus regarding Black students being called a derogatory name. Brannon took the time to come to orchestrated meetings to talk about how he feels about the situation as a Black male, and to inform as well as to hear the ULV students out about how they are feeling in the situation.
Brannon, who also completed his undergraduate program at La Verne, says, “I haven’t directly experienced racism on the ULV campus, but I did hear of instances while working in housing. I know of instances that have taken place that needed to be discussed. Emails have come out from the ULV president to the campus discussing some of those issues directly.”
Although the University is normally quiet, as a Black person, he has nevertheless seen how racism plays out for people; he also says he knows racism isn’t going to just go away in the larger society, so he makes sure those issues are not exposed throughout the campus and are addressed when necessary.
As a friend and colleague, Brannon wants to let everyone in the Black community know, “Stay solid in who you are. I know who you know yourself to be. Don’t let any new environment that you find yourself in force you to feel like you need to change or be anything different from who you are. You deserve to live a life full of dignity, guidance and safety that shouldn’t involve you changing anything about yourself.”
Freshman Criminology Major
George Felton is a freshman Native American and Black student on a football team whom you would expect to receive a field day of racism concerns about being a full-on minority person who is usually not accepted in most communities. For George he got the exact opposite.
When he joined the football team and the University, he was greeted by many people curious about his background. To their surprise, he knew little information of his personal life since he grew up in the foster care system. “The football team is very inclusive. I have met people there whom I consider my brothers. They make me feel accepted, and, at the end of the day regardless of my ethnicity or family background, there are people here who make me happy to be at the University of La Verne,” he says.
For George, Black History Month is very important to him because he gets to embrace his Black heritage. “Black History Month allows me to learn more about the people who came before me. My foster mother, whom I call ‘Auntie,’ is a really important figure in my life right now, so being able to honor her as a Black woman and everything she experienced in the world is important.”
Senior Photography Major
As a senior at the University of La Verne, you have so much to worry about: homework, senior thesis, finding a career job, internships, externships. The list is lengthy and can be stressful. How does that relate to racism? It doesn’t. As a student on the ULV campus, Darcelle is a wife and mother. She says she has always felt welcomed by everyone of any race and age whom she has come across on the La Verne campus. “In the sense that I’m older than most students, everyone has been pretty nice and accepting.”
Darcelle believes the Black Community as a whole is going forward in life. She says that if the general population believes that the protest movements created to limelight the Black community are deemed negative, then that, for Darcelle, is not true. She says as a Black student on the campus she has never experienced a bad day in her life from peers, students or any professors. “I went to the Welcome Black event put on by Misty Levingston, and it was pretty cool. I always felt welcomed at each event that I did attend on the campus as well,” she says.
Based by these interviews, it appears many experiences for Black students at the University have been positive. The school strives to be an inclusive campus that supports many ethnicities. Of course, nothing is perfect, but when mishaps take place, they are handled by the faculty and staff immediately, so other students are not discouraged to be who they are. ■