CCEI celebrates Black History Month with Black-owned business swag, activist-led workshops

Mikayla Galaviz, Reporter

Feb. 1 marks the beginning of Black History Month, and California Lutheran University’s Center for Cultural Engagement and Inclusion is holding multiple events to celebrate.

The origins of Black History Month date back to 1915 with historian Carter G. Woodson’s idea to celebrate the achievements of Black Americans nationwide.  This celebration was originally planned for only the second week of February, due to the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglass.

Over five decades, the popularity of “Negro History Week” grew across the country, expanding from a week to a month and by 1976, Black History Month was recognized by President Gerald Ford, according to the “African American History Month” page on the Library of Congress website.

Throughout the 2020-2021 school year, the CCEI has been giving away themed goodie boxes for different heritage months, including LGBTQ+ History Month, Latinx Heritage Month and Native American Heritage Month.

Senior Coordinator for Cultural Engagement and Inclusion Jonathan Gonzales said these boxes have been a hit among students.

“The Center for Cultural Engagement & Inclusion (CCEI) has always supported small businesses for much of the swag that we have given out at our programs and in our Center,” Gonzales said in an email interview. “Sometimes the boxes go in less than 10 minutes, other times it’s taken a few hours.”

To start Black History Month, the CCEI gave out 30 curated boxes filled with different items from Black-owned businesses. Items include a mask from DIOP, stickers from KLigg Co., enamel pins from Radical Dreams, lip balm from Mint & Ocean Apothecary, and a Black History Month cookie from Bree’s Cakes.

Bree’s Cakes, based out of Reseda in Los Angeles, created a custom “Gumby” cookie for the box.

“She was fantastic to work with,” Gonzales said. “Each month we have been trying to feature small businesses from around the country. Several have been Etsy shops. We have tried to remain consistent with some of the items each month. For instance pins, stickers, face masks have been featured.”

The CCEI is also encouraging the Cal Lutheran community to watch films centered around Black history, specifically the 2016 Academy Award nominated documentary “I Am Not Your Negro.” The movie follows novelist James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript about the lives of Medgar Evans, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.  “I Am Not Your Negro” is available to watch for free on Tubi.

On Tuesday, Feb. 16, the CCEI will be hosting a Playlist in the Park at 3 p.m., playing a curated playlist featuring Black artists, giving out special Black History Month stickers and free cupcakes from Missy’s Cupcake Creations, a local Ventura County Black-owned business.

Owner Missy Drayton says she started baking due to her family’s background.

“I come from a family of bakers, not professional but just home cooks,” Drayton said in a phone interview. “My grandmothers did catering so I grew up around it. My mother’s an excellent baker and I’ve always loved it.”

Drayton began baking for her coworkers and eventually grew in popularity.

“It got to the point where they would give me money to help buy the ingredients for it so I would keep doing it,” Drayton said. “When the cupcake popularity started – I guess it’s been about 10 years now. I decided to give it a try.”

Missy’s Cupcake Creations is celebrating their two year anniversary at their Ventura location in June, but hasn’t been able to properly celebrate due to the pandemic. They offer a wide variety of desserts, including cupcakes, donuts, cookies, macaroons and custom cakes for delivery. There are also multiple vegan options, which Drayton said have been popular.

On Wednesday, Feb. 24, Dr. Mary Whitehead will be holding a workshop via Zoom on how to sustain activism on campus. Dr. Whitehead is the Director of Student Diversity and Social Justice at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and holds a Ph.D in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies.

“The anti-racist work needs to be a community effort. Dr. Whitehead will be giving faculty and staff strategies to help us in our own work to help make Cal Lutheran an inclusive experience for everyone.”

— Jonathan Gonzalez, Senior Coordinator for the Center for Cultural Engagement and Inclusion

“Dr. Whitehead has a lot of experience in higher education and doing social justice work,” Gonzales said. “She has inspired students across the country in their activism.”

Gonzales said Whitehead will help equip the Cal Lutheran community to continue their anti-racism work. 

“Many Cal Lutheran students have made a huge impact on our campus and are brave standing up to racial injustice,” Gonzales said. “Dr. Whitehead will give students motivation and strategies on how to build on their anti-racism work.”

There will be two workshops hosted by Dr. Whitehead, one geared toward faculty and staff and one for students. Visit The Hub for event details.

“The anti-racist work needs to be a community effort,” Gonzales said. “Dr. Whitehead will be giving faculty and staff strategies to help us in our own work to help make Cal Lutheran an inclusive experience for everyone.”

According to the CCEI’s event description on The Hub, Dr. Whitehead’s passion is “to research areas of critical race feminism, activism, and the power dynamics between discourse and culture.” 

The Center of Cultural Engagement and Inclusion will be featuring a number of Black leaders throughout history on their social media every Monday and Friday. Follow them on Instagram to keep up with upcoming events.