Malcolm X called education “our passport to the future” in his speech at the founding forum for the Organization of Afro-American Unity in 1964. He linked it to the struggle for human rights, the discovery and celebration of cultural identity, and the development of greater self-respect. In his view, education provided an essential conduit for progress, a roadmap for continuous travel and not just a destination.
It was in this spirit that CSUDH’s cultural and affinity organizations gathered this month ahead of formal Commencement on May 19 and 20 for a series of smaller, culturally focused graduation celebrations.
“It’s important to celebrate the accomplishments of our graduates in a way that is culturally responsive and affirming, said Rony E. Castellano, program director for La Casita, the university’s Latinx Cultural Resource Center. “Our hope is that in years to come, we can continue to (un)learn together and build spaces where our histories, identities, and experiences can be fully honored.”
Ana Miriam Barragan, program director for the Toro Dreamers Success Center, said commemorating the extraordinary achievements of the university’s undocumented students was part of a broader commitment to honor family and community. “It’s our way to let them know that we see them, that we’re always here for them, and that they didn’t get here on their own. They got here because of family, friends, and loved ones.”
All commencement events celebrate CSUDH’s deep commitment to diversity, inclusiveness, and a culture where students and faculty can thrive together, says Trimaine Davis, director of the Black Resource Center. “I think the mainstream commencement does a phenomenal job of highlighting that this is a completion, whereas cultural commencements highlight the journey and what it took for our students to achieve this incredible accomplishment.”
“One of the best parts of a more intimate celebration like the Lavender Graduation event is that graduating students have an opportunity to speak and to express their appreciation for those who’ve supported them and share their feelings about the milestone,” says Megan Tagle Adams, director of the Women’s & Multicultural Resource Centers. “Many of our graduates spoke about the importance of queer visibility, finding strength in community, and their commitment to creating change.”
For Nathan Nguyen, program director for the Asian & Pacific Cultural Center, the intimacy of the cultural and affinity events helps illustrate that graduates are not alone on their academic journeys. “In these smaller events, we are all reminded of the importance of community cultural wealth that helped carry our graduates to the finish line. During our API Graduation Celebration, graduates honored their families and supporters by having a loved one bestow the API sash on them.”
The Toro Guardian Scholars (TGS) program at CSUDH connects students transitioning from or currently in the foster care system with critical services and resources to help guide them throughout their educational journey. Those resources include a network of dedicated community partners, says Program Director Ludivina Vasquez Snow.
“The cultural and affinity graduation events are a beautiful way of showcasing what can happen if all campus partners work together to support students who are most in need,” says Snow. “It is important that we continue hosting these events so that students can have a place where they feel comfortable and safe enough to talk about what they’ve had to overcome and celebrate with their community.”
This year’s event included a special gift from TGS partner organization The Change Reaction, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that connects donors with individuals and communities in need of financial support to overcome barriers and take advantage of opportunities for success. The Change Reaction generously provided each TGS graduate with a check for $500 to help them on the next stage of their journey.
CSUDH is proud to have celebrated our diverse Toro community at the following cultural and affinity graduation celebrations this year:
- The Queer Cultural Resource Center held its annual Lavender Graduation Celebration on May 4 in the LSU Ballroom to honor the university’s LGBTQIA+ community.
- The Latinx Cultural Resource Center held its newly named Latine Graduation Celebration on May 5 in the Torodome Gym to honor the achievements of the university’s Latina/o/x/e student community.
- The Asian Pacific Cultural Resource Center held its annual API Graduation Celebration on May 5 in the LSU Ballroom to honor the achievements of the university’s Asian and Pacific Islander as well as Southwest Asian North African student communities.
- The Black Resource Center commemorated its 28th annual Frederick Douglass and Mary McLeod Bethune Africana Graduation Celebration on May 6 in the Torodome Gym to honor the achievements of the university’s African and African American student communities.
- The Toro Dreamers Success Center held its annual UndocuGrad celebration on May 7 in the LSU Ballroom to honor the achievements of the university’s undocumented student community.
- The Toro Guardian Scholars program held its annual graduation celebration on May 12 in the I&I building to honor students that have transitioned from the foster care system.
- The Educational Opportunity Program held its annual graduation celebration on May 18 in the LSU Ballroom to honor the achievements of the university’s low-income, historically educationally disadvantaged, and first-generation student communities.
- The Veterans Resource Center held its annual Student Veteran Graduation Celebration on May 18 in the LSU Ballroom to honor the achievements of the University’s student veteran community.