Black Student Services has more than one reason to celebrate this month.
An audience of about 25 joined in the pre-Kwanzaa festivities Wednesday in the Lory Student Center, and along with the celebration, BSS is also celebrating its 30th year in business on campus.
“It shows a commitment from the university that black students are really important,” said Jennifer Molock, director of BSS. “We’re not just here for black students, we’re here for all students.”
BSS, along with El Centro Student Services, began as part of Project GO (Generating Opportunities). This organization was set up to recruit black and Chicano students from across the country and expose them to the college experience.
In 1976, Project GO split into BSS and El Centro, but maintained their original objective. Today, BSS focuses on recruiting and retaining students, giving them the help they need, providing a solid support system and focusing on specific groups to enhance their retention and graduation efforts.
“We just want people to know that we are here and we’re excited that they are here,” Molock said. “We want students to stop by because we’re here to support and encourage them.”
One way BSS reaches students is through events like their pre-Kwanzaa celebration, where Molock, wearing her traditional African dress, also honored students who will be graduating in December.
“It’s important to educate the campus community about the celebration of Kwanzaa,” she said. “It’s a celebration of who we are and allows us to pay homage to our ancestors.”
Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor for the Department of Black Studies at California State, established this holiday in 1966. Because the United States was entrenched in the Civil Rights Movement at the same time, Kwanzaa reflects not just the culture and those values, but also the unity and determination associated with it.
Kwanzaa, from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza,” is Swahili for “first fruits” and represents the planting and harvesting of the yearly crops. Kwanzaa also serves as a way to celebrate achievements, history, family and values.
Chantel Reed, a senior sociology and ethnic studies double major, said she believes Kwanzaa is a time where a person can reflect about all the things he or she has accomplished, as well as think about the future.
“There are many different religious beliefs within the black community, and since Kwanzaa isn’t a religious holiday, everyone who identifies with the African culture can participate in the celebration,” she said.
Advocacy offices beat writer Stephanie Gerlach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about Kwanzaa, visit Black Student Services in Room 204 of the LSC, or visit www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org.