After the unjust killing of George Floyd by fired police officer Derek Chauvin and ensuing protests, PCC’s Black coordinators called on leadership to address the pain students and staff are experiencing, in an email to staff on May 30, with plans to support the campus community during this time.
“I know we are looking for leadership on how to deal with these tragedies affecting our students and colleagues and truthfully my friends, I do not have all of the answers,” said Dr. Gena Lopez, coordinator of Ujima and Blackademia said. “I am sure there are many ways that we as a college can come together to discuss the public lynchings that keep occurring in our country.”
Lopez, who was the first to email staff regarding this matter, recalled sending a similar letter to staff a few years ago when Philando Castile, Michael Brown and Alton Sterling were killed—two within weeks of each other.
With the increasing levels of police brutality and unrest in L.A. County and across the nation, Lopez informed staff about what steps would be taken by her departments to support students in the following weeks.
“This is not business as usual,” Lopez continued. “So, we cannot sit idly by and wait for the storm to blow over. This is literally a matter of life and death for many.”
At noon on June 4, Ujima and Blackademia will be hosting the first of multiple forum meetings via Zoom for staff and students to process how they are feeling, learn what resources they need for help and how the campus can support one another. Lopez is unsure yet how many forum meetings will happen as the needs of the community are still being assessed.
“I have sat with OUR students and listened to their anguish,” Lopez said. “I have watched Black faculty and staff cry because they do not have the words or the answers to why the destruction of Black bodies continues to go unchecked. I have had non-Black allies call and text me asking how they can advocate and engage with us to end this nightmare of murder at the hands of those who do not believe Black Lives Matter.”
Lopez has also worked on a resolution to denounce the killings of unarmed Black/African Americans at the next Academic Senate meeting, similar to the one earlier this month denouncing the racist, xenophobic rhetoric towards Asian individuals following COVID-19.
“We will also be hosting, along with our campus partners, a series of events where students, staff and faculty can discuss current affairs, campus/community resources and ally development and engagement,” Lopez said. “I will keep the campus posted as these events are confirmed.”
Campus partners include Ujima Program, Blackademia, African American Male Education Network and Development (AAMEND), PCC Black Student Success Center , Community Overcoming Recidivism through Education (CORE), Puente Project, PCC Office of Student Life, Cross Cultural Center, PCC Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs, Dr. Cynthia Olivo and PCC Counseling Services.
Lopez also encouraged staff to broaden the conversation about racism and lead students toward peaceful protests, advocacy and safety during this time.
“I look forward to engaging in leadership to continue to dismantle racism and to be in community as we help our Students, Faculty, Staff, Managers & Community Members heal from the conditions we face—with the pandemic and racism,” assistant superintendent of Student Services Cynthia Olivo said in response.
Erika Endrijonas, the superintendent/president of PCC also replied with her support of Lopez and PCC’s students and staff hurting during this time.
“I am in awe of the passionate outpouring of support for our African American students, faculty, and staff in email today, as well as the solidarity displayed for all members of our community who live with inequity,” Endrijonas said. “I look forward to dialogue and discussion on Thursday and beyond.”
Endrijonas encouraged staff to reach out to colleagues they trust and seek help if they need to.
“Above all else, please know that the ideals of equality, diversity, and justice are at the center of everything we do at PCC, and his death is an affront to those values,” Endrijonas continued.
“I hope that we as a campus community can bridge the gaps caused by racism and white supremacy for our students and one another,” Lopez said. “May we heal together.”