When Jeff Duncan-Andrade saw an African-American and a Latino student straightening each other’s ties before the opening ceremony of the Male Success Alliance (MSA) 7th Annual Spring Summit “Reclaiming Our Legacy: Achievement, Advancement and Advocacy,” he was reaffirmed of how “legit” the event and the university’s commitment to helping young men of color is.
For Duncan-Andrade, an associate professor of Raza studies and education administration and interdisciplinary studies at San Francisco State University, it was his fourth time speaking at the day-long summit. Hosted by the MSA at California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) on Feb. 4, the summit featured workshops, panels and discussions aimed at building the boys’ self-worth and personal growth through change, community unity, and empowering them to strive for success through education.
True to form, Duncan-Andrade’s in-your-face street-speak style captivated the nearly 1,000 boys from 10 middle and high schools in the region who filled CSUDH’s Loker Student Union ballroom.
“I’m invited to these spaces [similar events] all over the nation–the ‘movement to really commit to young men of color’— a lot of cats are just this [going through the motions], because it’s convenient, and truth be told, right now there’s money in it. But what I see here that Cal State Dominguez Hills is legit,” he said. “I’ve seen it grow, and I know it’s legit, not because of who gets behind the mic. …I know it’s legit because what I saw happen right there, which was a Raza brother and a brother of African descent standing there looking at each other and fixing each other’s ties. They had their hands on each other, they’re like, ‘I’m gonna get you set up brother.’”
Alternatively, Duncan-Andrade also wanted the students to know that “the tie does not make the man,” and to not “measure value” by the clothes they wear, the neighborhoods they live in, or “whips” they drive. He also challenged the students to reach into their deep legacy of leaders and scholarly thinkers to better understand what they can achieve beyond what is often thought or asked of them.
“You are me, and I see in you the teaching of the ancestors and you see in me the teaching of the ancestors,” he said. “And when that happens truly, across all spaces, when the handshakes are not done because somebody told you to, but because you are familial, then we win.”
Others who spoke during the summit’s opening ceremony were California Assemblymember Mike Gipson, Lynwood city councilmember José Solache, who is also a CSUDH alumnus, Associated Student, Inc. President Jordan Sylvestre, and CSUDH President Willie J. Hagan.
Hagan asked the students that if they turned on the television set that morning, what the story might be if they heard a reporter start with “A young black male…. or “A young Hispanic male…” One student shouted, “…was killed.”
“Did you think a story would be about all the Male Success Alliance students who have on their jackets to symbolize that they have made a decision, that they are going to control their lives, and could then determine their future? Shouldn’t that be the story?” asked Hagan. “Or, shouldn’t that story be about hundreds of young black, Hispanic, Asian, and white males gather at Cal State Dominguez Hills on a Friday morning to get advice, and begin to shape their futures? Those are the stories that should be in the news.”
Inspired by the tone set by Duncan-Andrade’s remarks regarding brotherhood and community, the students began attending talks throughout the day, which included the MSA-facilitate “Reclaiming Our Legacy” session, the “Creating Meaningful Change” panel hosted by campus and community activists, breakout talks, a career panel with businessmen such as State Farm agent Damien Useda, and a student resource fair.
José Rivera, a 17-year-old junior who attends Locke High School in South Los Angeles, learned during the summit the importance of “blacks and browns” uniting to “change the system and issues that are just wrong in our communities.” He said he “could relate” to what many of the speakers said during the summit because he had been through some significant changes himself, and that he hopes to channel that change for good when he finishes college.
“Throughout my life people have helped me out, like caseworkers and therapist. I was a real bad troublemaker who got in a lot of trouble. They really helped me turn my life around,” said Rivera, who wants to major in psychology. “I want to study the mind to help others in the future; to try to make a difference, to create the change they talked about today.”
Michael Powell, a senior at Rancho Dominguez Preparatory High School in Long Beach, learned about the power of “strength in numbers” at the summit.
“One thing that I took away from today is, ‘United we stand, divided we fall.’ That’s why we were here today,” said Powell, who is interested in pursuing architecture in college, or possibly interior design. He also pointed to “society” as among his greatest educational influences. “America has turned into a post-industrial society, so the emphasis is on careers that are information based, which requires a degree. We need to have a degrees to make it today, to make it everywhere. So America is my inspiration.”
The day ended with remarks by William Franklin, vice president of the Division of Student Affairs at CSUDH and founder of the MSA. In also included a second reading by CSUDH alumna and poet Miya Williams, who also read her poetry to begin the opening ceremony.
The Male Success Alliance is an ongoing university initiative that provides mentorship, guidance, support services, resources, and builds a community for academic success among male students of color at CSU Dominguez Hills. Once connected through the MSA, members keep each other accountable for developing good study habits, going to class, getting good grades, and most importantly, finishing school. Paying it forward, these students also serve as mentors to local high school and middle school students.
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