The CSUDH Male Success Alliance (MSA) held its annual Spring Summit on campus, returning to full strength for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic. The event brought hundreds of middle- and high-school students of color to CSUDH on Friday, May 5, for a day of workshops and activities aimed at introducing them to higher education.
The theme of the 2023 summit was “UNSHAKEN,” an acronym for “Understanding Need, Struggles, Hopes, and Kinfolk, Excluding No one,” a phrase created by MSA Program Coordinator Gerardo Cuevas. “The committee was moved by the theme’s uniqueness and its relevancy to the male of color experience, not only in higher education, but in society as a whole,” said MSA Director Hakeem Croom.
The summit’s keynote speaker was former basketball star Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, who participated in a conversation with Dr. Salim Faraji, relating stories of his own upbringing and struggles to find his place as a devout Muslim in the NBA. Abdul-Rauf delved into his lifelong battle with Tourette’s syndrome, which was diagnosed when he was 17, and how it impacted both his life and career.
The remainder of the morning and afternoon included a resource fair on the North Lawn and workshops on everything from wellness and tech skills to reimagining masculinity and career options for college graduates. The summit concluded with remarks from Croom and a performance by Pomona rapper Nascir Tha Don – an MSA member himself.
MSA President Matthew Arrant greeted students as they arrived on campus and was impressed with the positive energy he encountered. “The atmosphere was unreal,” he said. “It was a load of fun. Seeing the kids happy and enjoying themselves was a highlight in itself.”
Vice President of Student Affairs William Franklin agreed. “Attending the MSA summit was awesome,” he said. “The pandemic significantly hampered things for a few years, but the summit is back in full force, and the young students in attendance took full advantage. When I led efforts to create and host the inaugural summit 14 years ago, I knew it was something special, but Director Croom and his team have taken the event to new heights!”
“I really enjoyed the camaraderie and fellowship on display,” said MSA member Jeremy Dent-Smith. “It’s important to show the youth that there are lots of different resources available to help support them while in college, because we all need that support.”
MSA member Andrew Navarro served as student panelist during the summit, providing the young students with advice and motivation based on his own personal experiences as an undergraduate at CSUDH. For him, bringing the students to campus was itself a major accomplishment.
“Some of the students expressed that they had never even set foot on a university campus,” said Navarro. “Because CSUDH is such a diverse, excellent institution, the summit is a good way to plant a seed in their minds that they can attend college or university. CSUDH has done a great job at raising the consciousness of students here.”
Navarro added, “The reason I do this work is expressed in the words of brother Malcolm X: ‘Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.’ If we are not reaching out and uplifting our young boys and men, many times they will not realize their potential. Seeing the students attentively listening to the MSA brothers shows that our work is crucial, because we’re inspiring the younger generation.”
Croom was also happy with the event, the first Spring Summit since he took over as MSA Director. “The students reacted positively overall,” he said. “They were attentive and engaged during the keynote, workshops, and resource fair. They turned up for the spoken word and musical performances, and even had a dance off! Our survey results show that the majority of students are highly likely to pursue college after attending Spring Summit, which is what this is really all about.”