Still I Rise: Reclaiming Our Stories & Seizing Our Futures

“The best thing about racism is you get to overcome it,” stated keynote speaker, Kevin Willmott.

California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) held its annual All Black Gala on Feb. 16. The theme for this year’s gala was “Still I Rise: Reclaiming Our Stories & Seizing Our Futures.” The All Black Gala is a formal event open to both the campus and surrounding community to celebrate Black Hxstory and culture.

This year, CSUMB had the honor of welcoming Kevin Willmott – an Academy and British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) award winner – as the keynote speaker for the evening.

Throughout the event and prior to Willmott’s speech, various performers were welcomed onto the stage to celebrate their culture. The evening began with two performances by the Men of Kappa Alpha Psi.

The final performer before WIllmott was Chris Siders, a spoken word artist. Siders performed three poems, one of which was dedicated to CSUMB. His poems focused on the hurdles and struggles people of color still face in today’s society.

Siders’ poetry pulls at the heart string and tackles very real issues people are often too afraid to address head-on. He includes personal anecdotes in his poems and opens up to the audience about his own struggles he has had to face. His second poem, dedicated to CSUMB, earned him a standing ovation.

While we have made major improvements over the years, the fight for true equality still continues every day.

“There’s always been two countries in America. The United States of America (USA) and the Confederate States of America (CSA),” said Willmott. “The USA expands freedoms and the CSA reduces freedom. This is a fight we will always be having.”

Willmott explained, during Barack Obama’s eight years as president, the country made major strides of progression. Willmott considered this to be a time where the states were truly United and considerable expansions on freedom were made. However, he feels we are currently facing a time where freedom is once again being reduced that we must overcome once again.

“When we overcome it, it’s such a great great great feeling,” said Willmott.

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