College of the Desert Superintendent/President Martha Garcia and a group of staff and students from the college’s Black Student Success Center plan to attend an education summit this September at the University of Cape Coast in Ghana.
The 2022 All African Diaspora Conference is part of Ghana’s “Beyond the Return” policy initiative, a 10-year project to engage people of African descent 400 years after the first records of enslaved Africans arriving in Jamestown, Virginia.
“This will benefit our Black, African, and African American population at College of the Desert by helping attendees and the other Black Student Success Center advisors to create a more Afrocentric space on campus,” according to a COD board report. “Moreover, it will help our students connect to the roots from which their ancestors were stolen.”
The COD Board of Trustees approved on Thursday a $22,000 budget to send Garcia, two professors, a counselor and three students associated with the Black Student Success Center to the conference.
After the conference, attendees will give a presentation about their experience to the Board of Trustees, and the Black Student Success Center intends to host various workshops discussing how they can introduce Black and African culture into a curriculum that is rooted in black excellence, according to Sara Butler, COD’s interim vice president of instruction.
This past semester, two online COD events were disrupted by “lewd and racist behavior” targeting Black students, Garcia wrote in a campus-wide email to students and staff in April. One of the events was tied to Black History Month, and was forced to end early after individuals entered the Zoom room and wrote racial slurs on a screen visible to all participants. Both events were open to the public.
In April, the College of the Desert Foundation awarded $1,000 scholarships to 13 students affected by the racist incidents.
“I felt like I was a pot boiling over,” Emmanuel Doublin, a Black student in his mid-forties studying studio arts, said in April. “It pissed me off. These guys would come trash an event I care about. Trash my heritage.”
He said the Black Student Success Center was a vital support to him after the racist incidents.
Talking through the events with his peers in the group and Jermaine Cathcart, the group’s advisor, was like “a slow, gradual release,” Doublin said. “The anger, the pain dissipated.”
Palm Springs Life published a feature on Doublin and his impressive artwork earlier this summer. This fall, Doublin is slated to be one of the students attending the conference in Ghana.
“This trip to Ghana means a lot to me, and just shows how great not only our community is, but the support we have at COD,” Doublin told The Desert Sun.
“Traveling to Ghana allows us students to get a glimpse at our roots and see the actual land where my people came from,” Doublin added. “For Black people, our family lineage has been severed down the line due to slave trading. This trip to Ghana is very important in that it also provides an opportunity for Black students such as myself to heal generational trauma.”
Jonathan Horwitz covers education for The Desert Sun. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @Writes_Jonathan.