As a symbol of inspiration, awakening, and the vital role California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) plays in the communities it serves, the university installed a peace pole on April 26 in the Sculpture Garden during the campus’s annual Unity Fest celebration. The peace pole’s unveiling and dedication marked the end to the university’s year-long 50th Anniversary Watts Rebellion Commemoration.
The CSUDH peace pole is a six-sided, hand-crafted monument engraved with the message and prayer “May Peace Prevail on Earth.” It is one of tens-of-thousands of peace poles in 180 countries around the world erected to remind passersby to “visualize and pray for world peace.” It is also an unyielding reminder that CSUDH was relocated near communities struggling for equity and social justice to help empower and transform them following the devastating six-day Watts Rebellion in 1965.
The din of Unity Fest was temporarily halted to enable attendees to witness the peace pole installation. The program began with a ceremonial drum processional performed by the Danza Azteca Xochipilli dancers.
“The question is, ‘Why would a peace pole be at Cal State Dominguez Hills?’ I think it’s pretty clear. Most people when they think about peace think about the absence of war or the absence of violence. My personal belief is that peace represents the absence of injustice,” said CSUDH President Willie J Hagan during the program. “The Watts Rebellion made it really clear that the absence of justice was present, which led to the rebellion, and led to our campus being relocated here. So as we were created as an instrument of education, the Watts rebellion, in my mind, rechristened us as an instrument of peace.”
The installation of the peace pole, which was unveiled by Hagan and Jordan Sylvestre, president of Associated Students, Inc., included a “reading of languages” by CSUDH students who said “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in 14 languages, and a sage burning blessing by Jimi Castillo, spiritual leader of the Tongva tribe.
“The peace pole before us is an everlasting commitment to each other and to our community,” said Sylvestre. “Peace does not mean perfection, but it means the will and effort to try. Peace does not mean conformity, but it means the acceptance of differences, of diversity, acknowledging people and working with them because of those differences.”
The installation was concluded with the release of white doves to symbolize peace.
Following the installation, a procession of attendees were led to the “Watts Rebellion 50th Anniversary Year-End Reception” in the University Library Cultural Art Center to officially conclude the Watts Rebellion commemoration.
The reception included additional remarks from President Hagan, as well as Tim Watkins, president and CEO of the Watts Labor Community Action Committee (WLCAC). It also featured a poetry reading by music student Monica Para, and an interactive reading performed by FLOW (For the Love of Writing), a new student group of writers on campus.
Watkins talked about the environmental injustice that has inflicted the Watts community for generations. He also said that it’s “been an honor” for the WLCAC to work with CSUDH over the past year, and that when other university’s reach out to the organization that he always says that such a partnership must include CSUDH.
“I feel that this is the university that has taken the lead to engage with Watts in a way that is not trying to hurt us, exploit us–study us, study us, study us–to generate more degrees without giving anything back,” said Watkins. “This is the place that I want to be connected to, and I look forward to remaining engaged with you all well into the future.”