by Ollie Hancock
35 to 40 community members gathered in the Arcata Plaza to speak about Black History Month on Feb. 17. A flyer, created by community organizer and artist Nikki Valencia, urged people to come out and show that their allyship wasn’t seasonal or conditional. When Valencia spoke in the plaza, they noted they did not feel that support.
“This is the perfect time to center Black marginalized folks, but that energy is not here,” Valencia said. “Black History Month is about more than educating. It means nothing if you know Black people are struggling and do nothing about it.”
Marlon Andrew Jones II, who works at Cal Poly Humboldt, spoke at the gathering. He said the voices supporting Black communities are never loud enough. Jones said that students, faculty, and admin need to listen to their communities if they want to support Black people.
“If you’re a white person and you’re listening to this and it’s making you uncomfortable, it’s supposed to,” Jones said. “You’re not supposed to be comfortable, because there is a community that has lived in discomfort for so long.”
In Jones’ speech, he urged empathy from white members of the community. The lived experience of Black Americans can be traumatic. Jones believes that white people need to do more than be accountable, they need to love their Black neighbors.
“Love is an action, and that’s what the Black community needs,” Jones said. “We need people to love us enough to take action and make a difference. Sometimes you don’t know what someone is going through, but you can hold their hand through it.”
Raquel Bell is a local student who spoke on the importance of valuing Black women. Black women exist at intersections of systemic struggles and deserve love and support. Bell said that when Black women are uplifted, so is the society around them.
“If you want change, first you need to love the Black woman,” Bell said. “Once her needs are met, you know everyone’s needs are met. Once you love a Black woman you change the world. The Black woman is strong, she is beautiful, she is me.”