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The Evergreen State College’s Tacoma campus and the Hawke Foundation brought Black History Month to a close with an event to celebrate African American history. The event was located right inside the college and went from 10 a.m.–2 p.m. The event consisted of different foundations and organizations located in Tacoma that work toward creating justice and equality within the African American community. Multiple speakers spoke to educate and entertain students and the public in attendance. 

First to introduce themselves to the room was the Dean of The Evergreen State College Tacoma, Dr. Marcia Tate Arunga. While Arunga was just recently named Dean of Students in 2019, she has for a long time led a life surrounding peace, education, activism and entrepreneurship. She has been involved in activist movements from Seattle to Kenya and helped organize the 1985 End of the Women’s Decade Conference, founded Seaweed International clothing store in Seattle, the Cultural Reconnection Mission. Not only this, but she also works as a writer and published the children’s book “Stolen Ones.” She now continues her work and mission through student life at Evergreen.

Diane Powers also joined the event to talk about her work as the Director of Equity with the City of Tacoma. The mission of the department is to fight against injustices within the community and to create a Tacoma that is inclusive and accessible to everyone residing in the community despite their race, age, gender or sexual orientation.

Another Tacoma based organization in attendance was the Peace Bus. Kwabi Amoah, creator and driver of the Peace Bus, discussed the mission of producing connections and offering aid to communities in need of help through solidarity. Through his discussion, Amoah explored topics relating to family, compassion, acceptance, equality, respect and especially education while highlighting the importance of cultural competency and empowering the community to speak up. He finished his presentation by calling seven children on stage to help with the telling of “Abiyoyo” — a West African story passed down through oral tradition.

Next up was a presentation from the Genius Academy in Tacoma. Ms. Gina, who brought six students along with her, explained the mission of creating an equal opportunity to education and learning for all while empowering the community. “We must partner with the future in order to change it,” she said.

Out of the six students that came to the event four gave speeches, one played the violin and one other read a poem before Gina sang the national anthem to end their presentation.

After the Genius Academy was Carl Forbes. Forbes works at Evergreen State College as the associate director for multicultural admissions. Currently, he is conducting research on Black Wall Street and spoke about his findings thus far. He presented a historical recollection of hidden events throughout American history and discussed the creation of as well as the rise and fall of the town that was known as Black Wall Street.

Another speaker to offer a historical recount of African American history was Miriam, a worker and planter with the Hilltop Urban Garden, which they call HUGS for short. Miriam discussed the resilience and history of co-ops — like Hilltop Urban Gardens — and their importance in black communities throughout history. She ended her presentation by welcoming eight students to take the stage and plant seeds. She demonstrated the planting and growing process by stressing the importance of planting with intention, love and care. Before leaving she noted that the garden has community work hours from 10 a.m.–1 p.m. every Saturday.

Another speaker of the day was Javoen Byrd. Byrd is an Evergreen Tacoma graduate currently attending UW Seattle and is the founder of the non-profit, The Hawk Foundation for Research and Education in African Culture. The Hawk Foundation began roughly two years ago in Tacoma and works toward bridging gaps in the community through education and research. 

Byrd’s focus resides around music and art in the community. During his presentation he played African drums, sang and danced while also inviting those in attendance to come up on stage to play with him. Through his music he presents stories with accounts of African American history that have been orally passed down through generations and presents the importance of drumming, dancing and music within the African community.

Dr. Arunga returned to bring the event to a close and noted that “This day was all about leaders, activists, gardeners and scholars all working together for harmony.”

The Evergreen State College Tacoma hosts events year round open to the public. If you’re interested, you can check their Facebook page to keep up to date on upcoming occasions.

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