P-SPAN #585: African American Graduation at Peralta Colleges

P-SPAN #585: African American Graduation at Peralta Colleges

August 30, 2019 2 By Stanley Isaacs


[MUSIC PLAYING] [NON-ENGLISH SINGING] SPEAKER 1: Let’s go! [DRUMMING MUSIC] SPEAKER 2: Whooo! Class of 2017. OK, slow down. Just one moment. Slow down. [CHEERING] SPEAKER 2: Whooo! Congratulations! SPEAKER 3: [INAUDIBLE] SPEAKER 2: Congratulations! DR. LAWRENCE VANHOOK:
I’m going to ask now, on behalf of the chancellor
and Peralta Community College and my co-laborer as we move
this program [INAUDIBLE]—- I want to ask that you would
have our host pastor, Pastor Sylvester Rutledge. And he’s going to
be praying for us. But after 55 blessed
years, he just put his wife to rest
just this last week. And so as he come
and prays for you, I ask that you would
lift him up in prayer. CROWD: Amen. DR. LAWRENCE VANHOOK:
Because after 55 years plus and 14 kids– [CHEERING] SYLVESTER RUTLEDGE: To
this great congregation this morning, it is
good to be alive. Y’all act like y’all ain’t
happy in being alive. [CHEERING] It is good to be alive. And we want to thank the school,
the graduates, the educators, and the educated to be able,
once again, to come to church. [LAUGHTER] Well, I know y’all are going
to go to church tomorrow somewhere, even if you have
to have church at home. Amen. Let us stand in
reference to our creator. And if there’s
somebody here who don’t know that there is
a creator, I just want you to go
outside and look up. St. Paul says, there
is no excuse for anyone to know that there is a God. So let us bow. All wise and all merciful God,
the giver and the sustainer of life, we thank
you for all that you have done in the midnight
hour through doubt and tears. We thank you that
you have given hope to some for a second chance. Now, we also ask and thank
you for the parents, who have sacrificed and
encouraged their children to keep marching
until to the end. Then, we thank you for wives who
are putting husbands through. We thank you for
husbands who are putting their wives through. And we pray that when our
dreams turn into nightmares, that you will give us hope and
the strength to stand again. We pray for the Motherland. We pray for our country,
and we pray for our leaders. And we thank you for bringing
the home, the church, the community together, and
then help us to stand together to give hope that those who
will be left after we are gone. Pray for the teachers. Pray that the system give
everybody an equal chance. Then, when it’s all
over, let us know that you are the one
who chooses, and not us. You said in your Word that you
would take out our stony hearts and put it in a heart of flesh. Then, you would put your
spirit into our bodies, and we pray that faith,
hope, and love will take us into eternity. But while we are
here, we thank you for the twins of
goodness and mercy that shall follow us all
the days of our lives. And we’ll give you all the
honor and praise in the name of our God and Christ. And the people said– CROWD: Amen. SPEAKER 4: Our
next person, who’s always done an excellent job
to mark the occasion, I’d like to bring her up at this time. She’s a colleague from Merritt
College, Dr. Siri Brown. [CHEERING] DR. SIRI BROWN: All right. All right. All right. 2017 is looking like a
really good year, isn’t it? CROWD: Yes. DR. SIRI BROWN:
You are graduating. [CHEERING] You have accomplished
a major goal. You are moving forward
in a new direction. You should be grateful
and thankful and proud of yourselves as we
are of you today. Today, my job is to talk
about the occasion today. Why are we here? Why do we do this? Why do we have an
African-American and African graduation? We do this because it
stands in our tradition to honor our culture,
to honor our God, to honor our
ancestors, to lift up our family, to think
about the future, to think about our children. We’re here today
because in our tradition here, since they dragged
us year on slave ships and brought us to this land,
we have held together tight as a unit. Don’t let yourselves be fooled. We are still a strong
black community, a strong African,
African-American community, despite the fact that the
news doesn’t cover it. They’re not here today. They’re going to show you
something negative that’s going on in our community. But we know the truth. We know that our people
are a resilient people, a spiritual people, a godly
people, a cultural people. And we know that
deep inside of us is a strength that
resonates beyond ourselves. And we pull on that
and we draw on that so that we can get
through the hard times. We are grateful to God. We are grateful
to our ancestors. We are grateful to the
Motherland, Mama Africa, whom which all
civilization, all humanity, all history comes from. Some of you are the
first in your family to graduate from
college, and I’m so grateful that
you have done that. You’ve set a model for
your nieces and nephews, your children, your
grandparents, your aunties, your uncle. You’ve set a model. But being first
is not new to us. We were the first on
the planet, the first to build the pyramids, the
first to invent mathematics, the first to lay down
history, the first to engage in
scientific knowledge, the first philosophers, artists,
dancers, business owners. Do you know your history
and where you come from? [CHEERING] If you are African, you
stand on mighty shoulders, and you should walk around
proud with your breast out. [CHEERING] If you know your history, you
have no reason to feel shame. You have no reason
to stop on your path. Because our people have been
through treacherous times, and they survived. Think back four,
five generations, and your
great-great-grandfather, your great-great-grandmother
was enslaved on a plantation. And we would think to
ourselves, how did they make it through that? God, family, and
guess what, y’all– they believed that this
day would come for you. That you could get an education,
that you could pull yourself into the direction that you
choose to pull yourself into. They didn’t live just in today
and get marred down by that. They bought into the future. And they’re present. Our ancestors are present,
and they’re proud. And they’re watching you. So today’s occasion is based
off of our history and culture. It’s based off of who we are. And for a moment, I want
to just take a few– give you a few moments to
think about whose shoulders you stand on. Who helped you get
to this moment? Was it family? Was it friends? Was it a partner? Who was it? Was it a stranger? Was it someone in the
counseling office? Was it someone in financial aid? Was it one of your teachers? Who helped you get
to this moment? Take a moment, and think
about that for a moment. We owe a great deal
of thanks to those who helped us get
here in the moment. Many of those
people supported you without you even knowing
that they supported you. The people on the
stage supported you, and you don’t even
necessarily know who they are. Teachers and counselors– and
guess who else helped you get to this moment– the people that were
haters in your life. CROWD: [CHEERING] DR. SIRI BROWN: Yeah. Thank you, haters. Thank you. Line up, because
I’m moving forward. There were people that told
you you couldn’t do it, but you still did it. There were people that said,
come on, let’s go this way, and you said, no, I’m
gonna stay that way. And you made it. 2017 is a good year. In spite of the
federal government, in spite of the challenges
we have in our community, you made it. You’re fighting through. Congratulations,
the Class of 2017. You deserve a great
round of applause. We’re proud of you. [CHEERING] SPEAKER 5: You can tell that
she’s a historian, right? [LAUGHTER] All right, next up, I’d like
to bring our leader of the– DR. LAWRENCE VANHOOK:
I’m tired already. We have a car that’s
gonna get towed. Now, you know you parked
in somebody’s driveway. [LAUGHTER] All right, if you’ve got a
GMC truck, the lady wants out. So she says, move it
now, or it will be towed. GMC license plate. It’s white. [LAUGHTER] Don’t tell nobody. SPEAKER 4 OK, well at least
we got the person, huh? [CHATTER] Next, I’d like to bring the
Peralta Community College District’s leader
to bring greetings and to introduce our governing
board and our college presidents. Please welcome Dr.
Jowel Laguerre. [APPLAUSE] DR. JOWEL C. LAGUERRE:
We are so smart. I mean, he knew that was him. And before we
could say anything, he was out of the door. That was so great. I want to recognize our
trustees who are with us. First, please– actually, if
I say, hold your applause, you probably will not do that. Let’s just do one
clap for them, right? Just like this, [CLAP] [CLAP] All right. OK. Vice president of the board,
the Honorable Meredith Brown. [CLAP] Our Trustee, Linda Handy. [CLAP] Our trustee, Karen Weinstein. [CLAP] I also would like to recognize
our president, Dr. Rowena Tomaneng. [CLAP] Dr. Timothy Karas. [CLAP] Dr. Marie-Elaine Burns. [CLAP] And President Tammeil Gilkerson. [CLAP] OK, thank you very much. [APPLAUSE] So a lot of times– I just want to share a few
words with our drips graduated. A lot of times,
people will ask me, how could I be just like
Judge Trina Thompson? How could I be just
like Dr. Siri Brown? How could I be just like
attorney John Burris? How could I be like
Mayor Willie Brown? How could I be like President
Barack Obama or Michelle Obama? How could I be chancellor of
Peralta Community College? Well I want to share
one thing with you. What all of those
people have in common is that they have
defying the odds. So for you who are here
today, somebody said to you, your mama and your papa
didn’t go to college. Therefore, who are you to think
that you can go to college? So you have defied that odd. Somebody said, if you go, you’d
be the first one in your family to go to college. You have said, yup, I
can meet that challenge. Somebody threw
resist things at you. They said, you black. They throw your way all
kinds of discouragement. Yet, you have beaten the
odds, and you are here today. Somebody probably told
you that, well, you are learning disabled, and there
is no way that you can make it. You are a teenage parent;
therefore, you cannot make it. You got involved in some bad
relationships; therefore, you cannot make it. You are incarcerated;
therefore, there is no way. Your life is over. You cannot make it. You are a foster youth. You are living with
strangers, so there’s no way you can make it. And you are homeless, and there
is no way that you can make it. However you have proven
a lot of people wrong. [APPLAUSE] You have challenged yourself. You have fought the odds. And you have won, because
you are here today. As you continue, you’re
going to transfer to your favorite
four-year university. You’re going to get
this wonderful job so that you can repay those
people you borrowed money from. You’re going to do a lot of
things to improve your life. There will be doubts. There will be times when
you’re going to say, is that really me? Did it really happen to me? And if you’re not
careful, you can regress. I have to tell you, last night
I was passing by the Colosseum, and the Oakland A’s had just
finished doing their thing. And there were fireworks. And my cousin was in
the back of the car. He’d just came from Haiti,
and I was telling him, you see that thing there? They’re trying to put it on
one of our college campuses. And then, they are getting me
involved with that big thing. What if they knew that I’m just
a little boy from St. George? So I regressed to think
that I am a little guy. There’s no way that I can be
dealing with those things. So that kind of doubt
will come to your mind. But what I want
you to remember is that you have
defied odds before, and you should defy odds
again again and again. To you, young people,
you are young. Anyone who’s
graduating is young. [LAUGHTER] [CHEERING] To you, young people, you
are the accomplishment of the civil rights. You are the symbol, the realism
of the civil rights movement. You are the ones who
amplified “Brown versus Topeka Board of Education” with
segregation and all of that. You are the proof that the
fights that went on before, that they were worth it. Again, when you
leave Peralta, when you leave BCC, you leave College
of Alameda, you leave Laney, you leave Merritt,
you’re going to need that same kind of strength,
because you have it in you. You need to continue to be the
embodiment of the civil rights movement. Everything that you do, you
are fighting a new fight. Every victory that you have– whether it is to wake
up and have the courage to go to class, even though
you are homeless; whether it is the courage that you had to
go to class, even though you were hungry; the courage
you had to go back to class, even though you know that
teacher, for whatever reason, didn’t like you– you need that same
courage to continue on. And we’re counting on you, we’re
counting on your making Peralta and your college very proud. So I am very proud of you. Congratulations on
your achievement. [APPLAUSE] SPEAKER 4: All right,
I at least thought our chancellor would
identify our college presidents by college. [LAUGHTER] So I’m going to
take a minute just to do so just to recognize them. Berkeley City College
college president– and please forgive me if I
mispronounce some names– Dr. Rowena Tomaneng. [APPLAUSE] Would you please stand? College of Alameda
president, Dr. Timothy Karas. From Laney College– [CHEERING] Tammeil Gilkerson. [APPLAUSE] And from Merritt College,
Dr. Marie-Elaine Burns. [CHEERING] You may be seated. Did you want to say something? No? OK. All right. Moving right along. Next up, each year, we bestow
what we call our Pioneer Award to individuals that have
played a significant role in the district to
perpetuate African, African-American students. I don’t know how many know
that we are the oldest chapter in a national
organization that’s the first affiliate of
the American Association of Community Colleges. Our chapter, the
Peralta Association of African-American
Affairs, yearly give out scholarship awards
to African-American students. Are any of those award
recipients for the 2017 year here? If so, please stand. [CHEERING] Excellent. [CHEERING] Excellent. Excellent. We give out– [CHEERING] We give out two
awards per college, and the reception was,
I think, two weeks ago. And I was the
mistress of ceremony on behalf of our president,
Dr. Herbert Kitchen, since he had administrative
duties in the southern part of the state with a group of
students from Merritt College. So I just simply wanted to
recognize those scholarship winners that were here. Next year, we’ll make
sure that those names are in this program. But going back,
Peralta Association of African-American
Affairs is an offshoot of the Western Regional Council
of Black American Affairs, and that is a subset
of the National Council of Black American Affairs. And to be quick about it,
we had prior administrators that played a key role in the
organization and the founding of that national organization– Dr. [INAUDIBLE],, Odell
Johnson, George [INAUDIBLE],, and I’m leaving someone out. [INAUDIBLE] Desi [INAUDIBLE], Percy Young. So at any rate, it’s
a lot of history that’s here in this district,
in this area of the country. And we’ve played
a very strong role in the support and
continuous advancement of African-American students,
of African-American faculty, administrators, and staff. And for that, we
like to recognize doers that work behind
the scenes on behalf of our students and staff. So the first awardee
recipient, since, once again, I was drafted and
did not know it. We want to honor an
industry person, who, while I was sitting as vice
president of instruction for Merritt College,
had someone phone me up one evening while I was
working at the college to find out if
Merritt College would be interested in a scholarship
endowment for computer science students. And I said, yeah, for sure. I mean, we’re not
going to refuse that. But I was also, at the same
time, quick enough to say, but would they be interested
in helping us reshape, revamp, and develop new curriculum
for computer science in order to have
students in the pipeline to distribute the scholarship? So to make a long story short,
this individual said yes. And that’s how we
started building back the computer science
department at Merritt College. But more specifically,
we developed, in concert, not only with him who’s
being awarded today, but another one of
his counterparts, the cybersecurity program
at Merritt College. So for that, I don’t want
to read his background. You can see it. It’s in the program. But he’s a Midwesterner,
as I. He comes from a noted institution in
the Midwest, which was a rival of the State
of Illinois, Buckeyes. But it’s one of the largest
computer science engineering departments in the country,
and he’ll, I’m sure, will say a few words
on their behalf. But he comes from
a large family, if I remember correctly,
quite a number, who’ve served in
various arms of service. And he resides out here. We work for a private
industry company. He at a much higher
level, of course, and we didn’t know each
other at the time– Big Blue, IBM. And went on to other
things as well– to found his own company. And he’s constantly giving back. Right now, he’s a part of the
Computer Information Systems Educational Fund. And those are the partners that
help team teach the classes up at Merritt College. They’ve also endowed the
program with additional dollars to implement it. So without further ado
and going on and on, I’d like to bring up Mr.
Jim Cates for his award. [APPLAUSE] On behalf of the Peralta
Community College District, the Committee for the African,
African-American Affairs graduation ceremony and
also the Peralta Association of African-American Affairs,
in grateful appreciation to James Z. Cates for your
dedication and contributions to the success of Peralta
college students, faculty, and staff, we’d like to
bestow on you this honor. [APPLAUSE] JIM CATES: Good morning. CROWD: Good morning. JIM CATES: Can you hear me now? CROWD: Yes. JIM CATES: So I was listening
to the gentleman who was going back in history. And so one of the things I
wanted to ask– how many of you aren’t familiar with
Fannie Lou Hamer? Right. Fannie Lou Hamer. One of those shoulders
that we’re all standing on. So when I was about
21 years old– I’m a product of the
civil rights movement. When I was about
21 years old, I was going to an engineering school. And at that time, I was
the only black engineer in this entire school. Matter of – they told
me I was the only black- second black engineer
in 100 years. [APPLAUSE] Thank you. [APPLAUSE] And the only reason
I’m bringing that up– I have a long background. I’ll tell you that. But at 21, when
I was graduating, our chaplain went to school
with Dr. Martin Luther King. And he invited Dr.
Martin Luther King to come to this little
midwestern college every year. I got ’66 and ’67. And Martin had to go on a march
or something, he couldn’t come. So every year, he couldn’t
come he would send someone from the Southern Christian
Leadership Conference, which I’m sure you’re aware of. So in ’66, he sent a gentleman
named CT [INAUDIBLE],, who was a outstanding speaker
and a very strong speaker. Now this is a Midwest
white college, and so you have this really
strong black speaker– wasn’t a friendly environment. And so he stood his own. Now, when Fannie
Lou Hamer came, she was kind of a short, stout,
dark woman, fiery eyes. She wasn’t well-educated. And so when she
would start speaking, sometimes you would get
hung up on the words. But as you listened
to the story, it was a very powerful story. Any of you who
know her background know that this woman
went through a lot. She was the first woman, first
black to vote in Mississippi, and it took her
years to do that. I spent the afternoon
with her, and she told me a lot about the shoulders
that people stood on. And at that time I
was, I was about– I guess I was feeling
kind of sorry for myself in this environment, and I
was thinking about quitting. So she sat me down, and she took
my hands and looked in my eyes. And she says, young man, let
me and let me tell your story. And she told me the
stories about what she had seen,
people she had seen die, the price she had paid. But at the end of
that, the one thing she said that I
remembered all my life, was, you haven’t earned
the right to quit. [APPLAUSE] And the reason
I’m saying that is that as you go forth
in life, you’re going to run into a
lot of challenges. I certainly did coming from
the civil rights background. And there was a lot of
times when I was upset and though life wasn’t fair. But I would always remember
that, the price she paid. She would say of all the
blood and difficulties that the historical shoulders
which we’re all standing on, this didn’t happen by accident. And then I would stand up
and go forth and do battle. The reason I’m here in Oakland
in this group of individuals that I’ve brought here
is for that same reason. I would like to work with
Oakland and the school district, as we’re doing, to
build the best computer science department in the United
States and maybe the world. [APPLAUSE] We have the people to do that. We have amassed a group
of about 50 people. A lot of them used
to work for me. They’re the best cybersecurity
people in the world. This is Silicon Valley. We have endowed the
chancellor, and the professors are working with us. These courses are team taught. Our teams have competed
in the cyber defense games run by the nation. They’ve placed second
the first year. This year, they
placed number four. We had an all-female team. [CHEERING] They placed fourth out of 135
colleges across the nation. Now what we need
is more students. So all of the individuals that
you know, them to [INAUDIBLE].. Everybody in Peralta,
check out our program– second to none. It’s kind of like, we’ve built
it, and now you need to come. Thank you for this award. Help this team accomplish
what hasn’t been accomplished. Merritt could become the
location in the United States so when companies
want cybersecurity– and they’re gonna want it. Every time you hear
a company going down, that means they need a
cybersecurity person. As of yesterday at Oracle,
we just negotiated a deal where if I can find
the student, they will give an ambassador
internship paying them $8,000 a month. [CHEERS] So there’s lots of
money in this opportunity. So I need you to come. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] SPEAKER 4: Thank you, Jim. And he’s for real. We met yesterday afternoon,
so it’s a golden opportunity. I hope the word is passed
throughout the district about the opportunity not
only for that, the ambassador internship with Facebook,
but also the $2,500 annual scholarship. We need applicants
for that as well. Thanks so much, Jim. All right, our next
award recipient– it’s an honor for me
to present this award. Classified support staff
are not always recognized, and they should be. [CHEERING] They keep things moving
in this district. They have the back of
administrators, of faculty, and students. They do a lot that’s
not always recognized. This particular individual
has worked tirelessly for the district and for
the Peralta Association of African-American Affairs. She’s one of the main movers and
shakers for the Black History Month buffet down
at the District. She sets up our tables
each and every year for our [INAUDIBLE]
scholarship recipients. She tallies the faculty student
evaluations for the district. She just does a lot on and on,
on and on, that a lot of people don’t know about. So as a committee
when we discussed, who should we recognize? Her name came up,
and it was unanimous that she should be bestowed
one of our Pioneer Awards. Ann Childress, would you
like to step forward, please, to receive your award? [CHEERING] Presented to Ann Childress in
honor of your contributions and dedicated service to the
success of Peralta College’s faculty, staff, and students,
we’d like to give you, bestow upon you the African,
African-American Graduation Pioneer Award
Recipient for 2017. [CHEERING] Would you like to
say a few words? ANN CHILDRESS: Can
everybody hear me? CROWD: Yes. ANN CHILDRESS: I’m
speechless, and I’m honored. And I’m so thankful. I tried to say I
wasn’t gonna do this. But I want to thank the
committee and everyone that voted for me. And I want to just reach
out to all the graduates. You don’t know how honored I
feel to stand in front of you, because what I do,
I do it for you. [APPLAUSE] And I congratulate
you on every dream. But I want you to
know one thing. When you walk, you
walk with faith. CROWD: Yes. ANN CHILDRESS: OK? You keep your
faith at all times. And you don’t let
nobody steal your joy. OK? And you know what you’re
going to go out to succeed to make yourself successful. And you don’t let
nobody turn you around. Because I’m gonna tell you
that devil, he’s always busy. And God– God is the one that’s
going to keep holding you on. So thank you. I love you all. And again,
congratulations, 2017. [CHEERING] SPEAKER 4: Dr. VanHook. DR. LAWRENCE VANHOOK: Thank you. Let’s give another round
of applause to our guests. [APPLAUSE] Now, listen, for those of
you in the back back there, the ones behind the wall, I
can hear y’all way up here. So if you’re gonna
talk, go outside. CROWD: [INAUDIBLE] DR. LAWRENCE VANHOOK: All right? If not, we’re gonna
close the curtains. I’m asking you all to go
upstairs and be quiet. We can hear you all up here. Number two, Mr. Cates, I
wouldn’t let you out of here even if I didn’t have
a degree in security. If you’re giving $8,000
a month away, listen, y’all, don’t let him out of
here without somebody getting the commitment for a job
or money or something. Because you all have
worked too hard. So let’s give these round
of applause to our honorees. All right. Now, I’m a clock-watcher,
and we’re behind schedule. Are y’all listening? So I need– the president
has– the chancellor has told me that Trustee Brown
will speak for the trustees. So ladies and gentlemen,
Trustee Brown. [CHEERING] TRUSTEE BROWN: Good afternoon. CROWD: Good afternoon. TRUSTEE BROWN: I’ll make
this very, very brief, because the clock-watcher
has already said that he is watching the clock. Really, what our role is as
trustees is governance, is– [INAUDIBLE] As the vice president
of the trustee board, I’d like to thank you
for your hard work and thank you for
allowing us to work with you in the governance of
the Peralta Community College District. And I would just want
to say a few things in the theme of what’s
been talked about today. In the wall of the
African-American Museum in Washington DC, there
is engraved a quote by Maya Angelou, “You are
the hope and the dreams of our ancestors.” CROWD: Amen. TRUSTEE BROWN: And
I just want to let you know that this
is a path that you have chosen because it
is the path of the people of African descent. You are an African people,
and education has always been our hope, our
dream, and our path. [APPLAUSE] Now, we’ve been hearing
a lot about Donald Trump and emancipation,
but I just want to remind everyone that we
fought this fight before. And we won. In 1963– now, I’m going
to tell you I’m from Texas. So the history of the
Emancipation Proclamation is the history of my
grandfather, my father, and my people before that. So in 1963 when the Emancipation
Proclamation was signed, we know that it got– that’s
why we got [INAUDIBLE] It got to California and Texas late. Somehow, the mail
was two years late. But when the Emancipation
Proclamation was signed, the next year, the
US army went in and began the first
Freedmen’s School. It was called the
Freedmen’s Bureau. We went to school
as soon as it was– we were no longer in
servitude, we went to school. So this is our path. And then in 1976– now, this is the
same state that we had Jim Crow, that we had
lynching of people to read, that is where the lawsuit
“Plylor v. Doe” was argued. Now, if anyone doesn’t
know “Plylor v. Doe,” it’s when a
Mexican-American family brought a lawsuit
because they wanted to be able to go to school. Now, let me tell you,
the first public schools were in 1864 after we won the
Emancipation Proclamation. 100 years later, because
of the groundwork set by African-Americans,
people, regardless of
immigration status, had a right to go
to public schools. This is your path. School is what you’ve
been fighting for. So keep on your path. [APPLAUSE] The 13th Amendment of the
Constitution abolishes slavery. The 14th Amendment gives people
the right of citizenship. That was something won
by African-Americans, but you brought people with you. The arguments regarding
the 13th Amendment questioned whether
people of Asian descent and people of Mexican
descent can be citizens. Because the African people
stepped up and fought with their rights,
you brought along everybody else that immigrates
or is born in this country. This is your path. This is where you
are supposed to be. Don’t let anybody
tell you different. This is your path. And the 15th Amendment,
which establishes the right to vote, that was won
through the efforts of African-Americans. And you brought that to
the rest of the country. You have liberated this
country from ignorance. You have liberated
this country from bias. And we are on a path
to continue doing so. So this degree that
you’ve got to today links with your ancestors,
links you with everyone who has ever fought for their
own self-determinations. [APPLAUSE] So you are the hopes and the
dreams of your ancestors. And something my father
told me, whose father was born to a man who was
a slave, all of them got themselves educated. My father told me,
the smartest thing– the blackest thing
you could be is smart. [CHEERING] So I’m here to pass
that message on, and I’m here to tell
you the blackest thing you can be is resilient. [CHEERS] The blackest things you
can be is persistent. [CHEERS] And the blackest thing you
can be is what you are– a smart graduate of
the class of 2017. [CHEERING] DR. LAWRENCE VANHOOK:
Will somebody say, Wow!”? CROWD: Wow! DR. LAWRENCE VANHOOK:
Thank you, Trustee Brown. Listen, there’s a whole bunch
of people I need to thank, and I’m going to
forget somebody. So let me just say it one time. Thank you. Ms. Butler, she’s going to
introduce us to speaker. [APPLAUSE] MS. BUTLER: Good
morning, graduates. CROWD: Whoo! MS. BUTLER: Whoo! You did it. You did it. We are so proud of you. I’m here to introduce our
student speaker, Ms. Vivian Allen. She is a graduate from
Berkeley City College. [CHEERS] I first met Vivian as part of
the revitalized Black Student Union at Berkeley City College. Thank you, Victor, for that. She went from being a
beautiful black face in a sea of African-American
students excited about our Black Student Union
to becoming the president of the Black Student Union. She went from being
the Black Student Union president to being the
associated students president of Berkeley City College. [CHEERING] And now she is a graduate
of Berkeley City College with an AAT in sociology. [CLAPPING] That’s right. She will be
transferring to UCLA. [CHEERING] Majoring in African-American
studies, making her ancestors proud to continue,
with a minor in sociology. It’s my honor to present
Ms. Vivian Allen. [CHEERING] VIVIAN ALLEN: Welcome. Good morning. CROWD: Good morning. VIVIAN ALLEN: Uh-uh, uh-uh. Good morning! CROWD: Good morning. VIVIAN ALLEN: Although, it
might be afternoon by this time, right? How are you all doing? CROWD: Good. VIVIAN ALLEN: Good. You all look so beautiful. Can I tell you all that? You take some selfies today? You’ve got yours. OK. Take some pictures
with your family, because you all
look so beautiful. Can I get a little test? Where is Berkley
City College at? [CHEERS] OK. Where is College of Alameda at? [CHEERS] Where is Laney College at? [LOUD CHEERING] Where is Merritt College at? [LOUD CHEERING] That’s real good. You all are proud of
yourselves, and that’s how it’s supposed to be. This is our
African-American graduation. I want to welcome all of
our family and friends surrounding us, as well as our
administrators, faculty, staff, and Board of Trustees here, but
most, most importantly to you all. Congratulations to the
graduating class of 2017. [APPLAUSE] So our theme today is talking
about the strength in unity. Is that right? CROWD: Yeah. VIVIAN ALLEN: Right. So this is a testament to
that, that there strength in this community– that we’re
here and there standing room only in this space. There are so many
people here who have supported you
to get to this place where you’re moving up and out. So I’m going to talk a
little bit about that today. There’s a proverb originating
in Ghana, Sankofa. Who knows about it? Come on. [CHEERS] It says, “It is not
wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten. Let me say it one more time. It is not wrong to go back for
that which you have forgotten. And I’ll you that’s right. So I think the world
we live in today makes it feel easy to forget
the greatness with which we come from. There’s so many things
going on in this world right now that make
us forget this, right? That this is possible. Hold this up right now. Hold this up. That this is real. OK? [APPLAUSE] So that proverb and that saying,
that comes from our people, right? And so we, as all these other
amazing speakers have said, we are the pioneers of what
this means to get an education. And that’s outside of the
boundaries of an institution. We know that. We know that that extends
far beyond being enslaved. But our history did
not begin there. Mm-hmm Raise your hand if you
know that’s not the truth. So I want to tell you all about
what Ramona was speaking on, my experience at Berkeley
City College with the BSU. As she said, I started out. It was really just a room of
five people when I joined. And like she said, it
was recently revitalized. And we were in this
giant conference room. If you’re familiar
with BCC, there’s a conference room on the fourth
floor that that is two-fold. And it’s just very large. So sh spotted
people in this room working on getting things
prepared for Black History Month. And I’m ready to jump
in and use my skill set to support however I can. Fast forward, move through
time, there’s this girl. Her name is [INAUDIBLE]. She’s the vice
president at the time– and also just amidst, in
terms of context of my life, when I joined the BSU is
that I had just started at Berkeley City College. So I didn’t really have
that drive that we all have that got us here right. Sometimes when we first
start out at things, it takes a little bit of time
to get elevated to the level that you need to
be at to succeed. And I was a little bit lost. And I was looking at Bri,
and she was doing her thing. She was really
leading by example. And so she sat down with me
one day and she said, you know, when I first started
at BCC, I didn’t know what I wanted to do either. I changed my major a
few times, and it’s OK. It’s OK. I needed to hear
that at that time. Because if someone
like Bri, who held all those amazing
leadership positions, was lost at one point in her
time, in her college career, I knew that I could get there. How many of you all feel
what I’m saying right now? [CHEERS] Come on. There was someone in your
life that told you it’s OK. It’s OK. And it’s going to be OK. And then, you stepped up to
that plate, and you said, this is what I’ve got to do. I’m watching and I’m seeing what
these other folks are doing. Let me follow them around. Let me hang out with
them and understand what it takes to get to this place. And so that’s what I did. Just as Ramona
stated, I ended up becoming the president of
the Black Student Union. Come on, y’all. [CHEERING] I know for a fact that that is
my ancestors’ wildest dreams, because it was an honor. It was an honor to
serve in that position. But another story that I want
to tell you in that same vein is that there was a
member that joined while I was serving as the
president of the Black Student Union. who shared a very, very, very
heartfelt testimony with me about his time in the BSU. He said, if it
weren’t for the BSU, I would not be here right now. OK? In this life, his choice to
leave and his choice to stay were impacted by his
community and the strength in that BSU and the strength
at BCC and the strength within the Peralta
Community College District. He said, if I didn’t
join this club, I would have committed suicide. But he is here today. He is here today because
of his community, because of us all
right here, because he was able to witness the
greatness of all of you in this room and know that
there was better for him. Who said it? Who said it? You all know what
I’m talking about. Who said, “You have not
earned the right to quit?” CROWD: Fannie Lou Hamer. VIVIAN ALLEN: That’s
right, Fannie Lou Hamer. He hadn’t earned that right yet. He couldn’t just step out. He couldn’t just do that. And now when I tell you
all that same member now serves as the Black
Student Union president. Come on. If that’s not full circle,
I don’t know what is. So that’s the strength that we
hold in the black community. We transform lives. We impact people with our
stories and our survival, really. Think about that– our survival. There’s so many
folks up here who talked about things
that we’ve gone through in our past as a
people, but we are here. And we are thriving. Congratulations. Congratulations to you all. [APPLAUSE] So what I want to
try you all with is that this is a collective. Within the Peralta
Community College District, as community college
students, there’s a huge stigma where this
doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t mean anything
until you do blank, until you start making a
certain amount of money or you go to a certain
prestigious university. Mm-mm. Again, hold this up. Uh. Tell them, OK, this
means everything. Because the foundation that you
have as students will carry you that much farther
than someone who hasn’t learned these lessons. You will have learned
how to commune with each other and network
and engage and get that much farther. Look, if you weren’t
in this room, you wouldn’t have the
opportunity to be at this– giving me scholarships
or with this man who offered us this
amazing opportunity to get paid a lot of money. So there is intention. There is intention there. And it’s divine that
you all are here, and it is divine that we all
survived this community college experience together as one. You’re sitting next to the folks
who helped get you through. You’re sitting in
front of the folks that helped get you through. You’re sitting behind the folks
that helped get you through. So you have a collective
responsibility to each other to keep going. After this moment, no matter
what it is that you’re doing, I want you to hit
the ground running. Can you do that for me? [CHEERS] OK? If you ever doubt yourself or
your journey or your next move, remember this strength in unity. OK? Thank you. [CHEERING] [MUSIC PLAYING]