The Creveling Lounge was unrecognizable on May 31, as the 61 PCC graduates walked through the center of the room to the sound of beating drums played by other students among them. Two women performed a Koko West African dance in colorful costumes, dancing around friends and families and all of the students who successfully completed their academic achievements this Spring.
It is the fifth annual PCC Black Grad Celebration and the many black, gold and white balloons at the center of the ceiling reflect the spirit of graduation. After singing the Negro National Anthem, the ceremony was followed by the speakers’ speeches about the importance of this day in the black community. They spoke of how no matter where the future of the day’s graduates will lead them, they did it, they reached their goal and got their degree and nothing and nobody will ever take that away from them.
Anne and Maria Kala are two sisters who came to study at PCC from the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa four years ago.
“I really kind of feel nostalgic right now,” said Maria Kala. “This is a good school, I received a lot of support from my teachers. Teachers here are great: you really feel that they want you to succeed. I’m really going to miss it.”
Kala is getting her Associate Degree in Natural Science and also in Social Behavior. Her plans for the future are to transfer to Cal State LA where she will be taking Biochemistry. She’s planning on finishing in two years, and after that, she will be aiming for the MD/PhD program, so that she’ll also be able to earn credits for working in research labs. Kala will be getting into research and medical school, so that she’ll eventually be able to work both in clinics and labs.
“Black people, just like Latino and Native Americans are considered to be a minority in the scientific field,” said M. Kala. “Black graduation is important because they are recognizing the black students who made the effort to go ahead and finish their classes and that is fundamental, because it’s also encouraging other students who haven’t graduated yet to go ahead and make that step forward.”
Her sister Anne said that she’s excited to graduate today, and that she doesn’t think that she’ll be leaving PCC forever because this was the first school and the first community that welcomed her when she came here from Congo. Anne Kala will be transferring to Cal Poly Pomona University to pursue her education in Business Administration. Her major at PCC was Communications and then she added Business Administration, as well.
“I want to help other students as much as I can to take advantage, to go to college and to get their education and degree so they can be successful in life,” said Anna Kala. “The black crowd is really important to me, because in the Ujima program we always celebrate our successes and it’s a joy for me to be celebrating with all my Black students peers.”
A gentleman on stage among the speakers was wearing a Kente matching the African drapes and decorations that were hanging on the windows behind them and African paintings were displayed in front of all the people in the lounge, including one of John Singleton (iconic American film director, screenwriter and producer who attended and graduated from PCC) made by artist John Barge III.
“For me it’s a relief to finally leave PCC,” said Daijuan Hannah. “I did not want to stay for longer than two years, so I tried my hardest to make sure I could get everything done on time and get out of here.”
Hannah didn’t want to be at a community college for a long time, because he said that the rumor is that once you come, it takes you forever to leave. He’s studying graphic design, and he wants to make sure that he can start working as soon as possible, so he’s transferring to Cal State Long Beach, and that’s where his new adventure will start in the Fall. Two or three years after that, he is planning to get his Bachelor’s degree of Arts and Graphic Designer (or Bachelor’s degree of Fine Arts and Graphic Designer).
“I think it’s important for us to get a little bit of individual shine,” said Hannah. “As students, we need to try our best to graduate, but when we get to separate and do our own black graduation, a little bit more importance is shed on how crucial it is for us to succeed and finish school and reach our goals.”
After the student speakers came the distribution of the Awards, Wendy Raquel Robinson, the keynote of the event, made her speech about encouraging students to pursue their dreams. As stated on the Black graduation pamphlet, Robinson is a known actress, as well as the co-founder of the Amazing Grace Conservatory in Los Angeles, a non-profit organization for inner-city youth to explore the arts and an exceptional theatrical training institute. Robinson says that AGC is mostly about ’healing through the arts’.
Kimberly Belcher is very happy to be leaving PCC, because she said that she worked really hard and it’s been three and a half years, but she’s finally made it to graduation, and she’s getting her AA in Journalism. After this, she’ll be transferring to Cal State University Northridge (CSUN) in the Fall, pursuing Journalism.
“The general graduation is a ceremony to recognize what we have done here at school,” said Belcher. “But Black graduation recognizes us as a people, our culture, the things we find important, and how we celebrate. It’s a different atmosphere. It’s a real life celebration and not just a ceremony.”
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