On Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022 PCC hosted their very first annual Black Family Reunion. The purpose of the event was for the black population here at PCC to come out and have fun while supporting the growing community. The event included black owned food trucks, the Pasadena Flea Market, line dancing, raffles, and games. Special performances were included by DJ Millie, QUIN, Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter 6lack and rap icon MC Lyte. The Student Services Division was on site to help current students receive all the resources they need in order to be successful. The event was a beautiful and powerful display of the genuine love and care that PCC has put into creating visibility and strength for the black community on campus.
First, California State Representative Assembly member Chris Holden took the stage at the Jackie Robinson stadium to hold a special acknowledgement of the opportunities that are being created as a result of the new initiatives that are taking place. Holden gave special emphasis to the Black Family Reunion as an event that “reaches out to the black community at a family-centered event promoting education–with an entertainment and resource fair showcasing the many ways Pasadena City College can promote the success of black students.”
One of the highlights of the Black Family Reunion were the artist performances. The artist lineup was set up to have different acts that the young, old, and everyone in between would enjoy. DJ Millie, a Pasadena native set the tone by mixing tunes both old and new that everyone could dance and vibe out to. Stephan McGrue, the educational advisor for the Upward Bound program here at PCC stated that he and the team responsible wanted to “celebrate everyone, we wanted to make sure it was inclusive and feeding what everyone would love to do”.
DJ Millie then introduced her good friend and fellow Pasadena native, QUIN. QUIN’s vibey and soulful performance introduced a vibe that she herself coined “fantasy soul music”. She admitted her new sound in music is “a self made genre that has turned into a universe of all the things that I love.” The love was evident especially when 6lack joined her on stage for their popular single Mushroom Chocolate, a collaborative project that she’s extremely proud of. When asked what the significance of performing at the event was, QUIN said “Millie and I are both from Pasadena so of course anytime an opportunity like this comes up, we’re gonna be here.” 6lack agreed, “To do something for the community that I’m not connected to is priority for me, it wasn’t even a second thought, like why not? Why wouldn’t I do this?”
6lack put on a captivating performance that had the audience buzzing with excitement. Early on in his set, 6lack introduced 2 new singles that will be on his upcoming album set to be released later on this year. He then took it back for his OG fans by performing songs from his first album. The whole crowd swayed and sang along to his very popular single “PRBLMS”. Every performance for 6lack is important in some way and this show was nothing short of intimacy. In addition to a beautiful and intimate performance, 6lack showed his support for the community by speaking to the fans in the audience and walking around the campus before and after his performance to take pictures and genuinely connect with fans.
“I have a responsibility to connect with people because who else is going to do it?” His growth in his career is evident and admirable. “If I was a listener I would need music to live to and music to grow to” 6lack said. Expounding on that, he confessed that his music is a representation of his growth as a person and a musician. “This is where I was, this is who I am and this is where I’m going.”
The show closed out with an exciting performance by the iconic MC Lyte. Lyte is an iconic artist who pioneered rap music for women over 30 years ago. She performed classics like “Cold Rock a Party,” and “Keep on, Keeping on,” that had the crowd bumping, singing and reminiscing with hip hop beats that couldn’t keep anyone in their seats.
The Black Family Reunion would not have been possible without the passion and hardwork from staff, especially Stephan McGrue. Stephan explained that “There were so many little things that made this a big thing. It took a village and sparked more than I could imagine. I started reaching out to my resources and a beautiful harmony of respect and love followed.”
Since the pandemic, student enrollment has decreased across all groups but there was an especially low decline in regards to the black student population. PCC currently has over 20,000 active students however only 4% are black. This number is staggering considering that black people makeup almost 10% of Pasadena and almost 20% in the neighboring suburb of Altadena. McGrue is dedicated to changing that. He states, “I wanna hear people say ‘well I want to go to PCC because of this school event’ and I think that happened today.”
Over the last year PCC has made huge strides to emphasize their mission of inclusion. “We’ve been really intentional here at PCC to make sure all of our communities are heard.” Connections, especially at a community college, can be difficult to obtain and is something that is missing on campus–however, McGrue and other faculty members at PCC are doing a great job to close that gap. Successful events like the Black Family Reunion and Thirsty Thursdays “bring programs out of the buildings and let them be visible on campus.”
Visibility, connections, and relatability are crucial when trying to grow any community– and the Black Family Reunion definitely accomplished that mission. From the black owned businesses that received immense support, children playing games while squealing with joy, black panther costumes, Aunties in the crowd swinging their hips while line dancing to artists old and new. The event was quintessential black joy and thankfully due to its success there will be many more to come in the future.
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