Dr. Maulana Karenga, creator of Kwanzaa, was welcomed to the San Bernardino Valley College campus in celebration of Black History Month. The professor, author, and activist gave his lecture, "Message and Mission in Black History: Forging a Future and World of Inclusive Good,” in the historic Auditorium in an exciting event that was free and open to the public. Campus and community members in the audience, adorned in traditional African attire or colorful patterns, watched Dr. Karenga and his wife Tiamoyo Karenga open the event with an ancient water pouring ceremony honoring our ancestors.

Among the topics addressed were ways to embrace one’s culture and how to take advantages of the opportunities presented to people of color today. Karenga insisted that he must speak the truth like Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, because he did not want to “betray that history”. He stated that we all must respect our diversity, and said one of the most important parts of American history is “insisting all of multicultural education."

During the civil rights movement in the 1960s, Dr. Karenga was instrumental in the creation of Kwanzaa and the pan-Africanist Kawaida philosophy, a topic that was prominent in his speech, as various guests expressed their gratitude to Karenga for creating a holiday in which African Americans can celebrate their culture. Audience member Singing Bird of the Apache Nation thanked Dr. Karenga for acknowledging the struggle of other minorities, in particular Native Americans, and said, “I see your people and my people as one…We are no longer victims, but survivors.”

This event was a great opportunity to embrace one’s culture and to reflect upon the history that brought us to where we are today. Ernest Guillen, SBVC library technical specialist and co-chairman of the college’s Arts, Lectures & Diversity Committee, said Dr. Karenga brings a long list of impressive credentials to draw from. According to Guillen, the college administration has put a lot of effort into making the event happen. “We as a campus are always thrilled to have a fellow educator come and deliver an address to our community. Our community is really hurting to hear these messages,” he said. “You always think of Black History Month as only speaking to a certain constituency group. In reality, the civil rights movement that the Black community spearheaded has trickled down to all of these other communities.”

Dr. Karenga holds two doctoral degrees and is professor and chair of Africana Studies at California State University, Long Beach. During the civil rights movement in the 1960s, Dr. Karenga was instrumental in the creation of Kwanzaa and the pan-Africanist Kawaida philosophy, which many SBVC students have studied about in their history classes. Presented in partnership with San Bernardino Valley College’s Black Faculty & Staff Association, Student Equity Committee, and Arts, Lectures and Diversity Committee, the event held in the historic SBVC Auditorium, was free and open to the community.