Cal Lutheran names first Community Scholars for Black Lives

Nataly Gutierrez, Reporter

This July, California Lutheran University launched the Community Scholars for Black Lives program. The first three scholars were announced Nov. 3.

“Systemic racism makes it difficult for my community to be exposed to successful opportunities,” Sia Williams, Cal Lutheran junior and Community Scholar for Black Lives, said in an email interview. “Our system was not created for Black communities to succeed, and it is important for America to not only own up to this disadvantage but to fight to make the system better for our future generations.”

Williams said she applied because she wanted change–to create more equitable opportunities for the Black community.

Landry Irumva, Cal Lutheran junior and another Community Scholar for Black Lives, said applying was essential in helping him reach his goals and contribute to society.

“Well, for myself as a Black man, systemic racism is something I, unfortunately, live every day, so it is very important to me,” Irumva said in an email interview. “I do not get to have a break after a protest for Black Lives Matter and forget about all of it, every day walking around in my skin means I will confront systemic racism in one way or another.”

Irumva said the application process was highly competitive.

“The experience was competitive because they were only choosing three scholars, so the waiting was a bit crazy,” Irumva said. “This is a testament to the importance of CLU, and the community partners have put on the program.”

Zino Ayetuoma, vice president of Black Student Union, Irumva and Williams are the first Community Scholars for Black Lives, and were selected by a panel of Cal Lutheran faculty and staff as well as local, national and international civil rights leaders, according to a Cal Lutheran press release. 

The program was initiated by Susie Lundeen-Smuck, the former chair of the Board of Regents. Smuck made an informal suggestion that Cal Lutheran take part in the movement to memorialize George Floyd. Vice President of University Advancement Regina Biddings-Muro and Kelly Owens, director of Sponsored Research and Projects, moved to connect with well-established community organizations.

Those six organizations were Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Xi lota Lambda Chapter, The Channel Islands Chapter of the Links, NAACP Ventura County, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Psi Xi Chapter, Ventura County Alumnae Chapter, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Xi Kappa Omega Chapter.  

Biddings-Muro said the program was the university’s means of taking action, to do its part in addressing systemic racism by spreading awareness.

“In reaching out to the community organization to come together and to think how we can be bridge holders to expand understanding and to educate, that’s what led to the program,” Biddings-Muro said in a phone interview. “So our students would help to broaden this awareness and to bring real work to life.”