“There’s a lot to be proud of as a Black person on this campus:” 2023 Black Legacy recap
The Black Legacy Committee celebrated Black History Month from Jan. 29 to Feb. 9 through a variety of events related to sports, Black alumni and more. Presented by the Black Faculty and Staff Association (BFSA), the second annual “Black Legacy Cal Poly” was a set of events in partnership with Black Legacy Committee and campus entities.
Preston Allen, former University Housing Director and former BFSA President, was in attendance at these events. He remains involved in the BFSA, as well as the Cal Poly Black Alumni Community (CPBAC) at large, but he is not a Cal Poly alumni.
“For Black people, these kinds of events just underscore that we do matter, that we have contributed things, that we should be treated with respect and appreciation and that we should be given the credit for our abilities and talents,” Allen said. “There’s a lot to be proud of as a Black person on this campus.”
Two of the events centered around Black Cal Poly alumni: “The Divine 9” and “Our Legacy.” CPBAC President, Clayton Mitchell, said that The Divine 9 discussed fraternity and sorority life, specifically the nine historically black fraternities and sororities that are in existence today.
“The Divine 9 event was just incredible,” Mitchell said. He appreciated Cal Poly President Jeffrey Artmstrong’s presence. “It would have been okay if [Armstrong had] gotten off after ten minutes, you know, ‘hey, I’m here to greet you guys and leave.’ He stayed the whole time.”
Alumni called in from as far as England to participate in the conversations during “The Divine 9,” and Armstrong was present for the duration of this event. This meant a great deal to the CPBAC as well as the BFSA.
“The message clearly was there, that there was Greek life — Greek life is important to communities, and whatever the Greek organizations could do to help the Black students at Cal Poly recreate that in some form or fashion, they were happy to be able to do,” Allen said.
Mitchell also noted the importance of the community aspect that fraternities and sororities help to create from a cultural aspect.
When Mitchell attended Cal Poly as a member of the class of ‘85, he was a member of Omega Psi Phi, a historically Black fraternity. At the time, this fraternity, as well as the other historically Black fraternities of Kappa Alpha Psi and Alpha Phi Alpha were all present at Cal Poly.
“A lot of those guys, even outside my fraternity, I still have a lot of contact [with them],” Mitchell said. “It’s just one more element of college life and a spectrum of organizational involvement and engagement with people that just added flavor to my education.”
Many fraternities and sororities were in attendance at “The Divine 9,” as well as students, staff and alumni. Allen said alumni shared stories about Greek life in the ’80s, especially about Black Greek life, something that is less prevalent at Cal Poly today.
A week later, the “Our Legacy” event was held virtually, with a panel of Black alumni.
This event involved talks about improving the experiences of students who are Black, Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC), and enhancing the lives of these people after their graduation from Cal Poly with networking and professional engagements.
“’Our Legacy’ was really about bringing the broader Black community alum back into the fold,” Mitchell said. “It was just a fantastic event. I think we will probably increase our numbers through the folks that attended and who really feel compelled to get back into the Cal Poly spirit.”
Many initiatives of BFSA and CPBAC center around improving the experience of Cal Poly graduates who are a part of these communities.
“I think some of the things that we’re trying to do as part of the Black alumni community are really focused on improving exposure and education of all Cal Poly grads,” Mitchell said. “A lot of it starts with the kids that you’re engaging with right there in San Luis Obispo.”