Before I die… “I want to make my family proud,” scribbled 19-year-old business major Chinaemerem Isika in chalk on the “Before I Die…” wall that has been erected on the east walkway outside California State University, Dominguez Hills’ (CSUDH) Loker Student Union.
“When I saw the ‘Before I Die…’ board I became very happy because I have so many more things I want to do before I die,” said Isika, a Nigerian national who has only been in the U.S. for seven months to go to college. “And one of the most important things I want to do is make my family very proud of me. They sent me here to America to study, so I need to make them proud when they see my grades and results. They’ll be like ‘Yeah, this is my son, he is a very good person.’”
A public art project that has gained worldwide attention, the “Before I die…” wall prompts individuals to think about and contemplate their futures on the spot. CSUDH’s wall was conceived by Emily Cristales, a communications major with an emphasis in public relations and advertising, at CSUDH who serves as director of community relations in CSUDH’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA).
“I first saw a ‘Before I Die’ wall while driving through Mobile, Alabama, last summer on a road trip and knew that I wanted to bring one to life myself,” said Cristales. “Originally I had thought to do one in downtown Los Angeles next to my old office in the fashion district, but then noticed the need of my community and our PRSSA members. So I created the [PRSSA] Public Interest Committee [PIC] and recruited a team of 25 people to have the manpower to execute such a project on campus.”
Cristales also created the PIC to “give PRSSA members opportunity to raise awareness for PRSSA and elevate the image of the CSUDH community in the eyes of the outside world.”
She was surprised by the immediate “buzz” the wall created, and how the campus embraced it in such a “deep way.”
“Today, as I sat next to the wall for most of the afternoon, I listened and watched the activity surrounding it. One professor brought his entire English class to the wall to write about the impressions and responses that they [the campus community] recorded on the wall, and then formed an entire lesson plan and writing assignment around the wall,” said Cristales. ”Another student leading a tour walked by with a group of potential CSUDH students and their families to show them the wall and showcase the livelihood of our community here on campus.”
CSUDH President Willie J. Hagan also stopped by the “Before I Die…” wall to talk to students and take some time to read the comments written on the wall.
“Sometimes we get very wrapped up in the day-to-day of what we’re doing, which can make it easy for us to forget about our higher aspirations,” said Hagan. “So this is a reminder. It reminds us that yes, we are going to die someday—that we need to look back on what they have done so we can plan for the future, and try to envision what we hope to see looking back again when that day is near.”