Cross-Cultural Center Celebrates Its 40th Anniversary

The Cross-Cultural  Center marked its 40th anniversary last Thursday with speeches from students, alumni and notable associates of the Center.

The Cross-Cultural Center was founded on Oct. 16, 1974 and has grown tremendously over the years, housing various programs for cultural wellness and personal development, service learning and volunteering, multicultural leadership development and social justice education.

Hop Nguyen | Photography Intern

Hop Nguyen | Photography Intern

The event began with speeches from alumni Ernie A. Smith, Ph.D., professor of Medicine and Clinical Linguistics Department of Internal Medicine, Maria Malagon, an assistant professor at Cal State Fullerton and Edgar Dormitorio, the Chief of Staff at Student Affairs on campus.

The alumni were also active members in the Cross-Cultural Center during their time at UCI. Smith was an avid anti-war protestor, Malagon was a student activist in MEChA and Dormitorio was part of the Filipino organization on campus.

The event continued with an introduction from student speaker Khaalidah Sidney and a speech from Dr. Joseph L. White.

White, considered the “godfather” in the field of black psychology spoke of the goals of the Cross-Cultural Center. He stated, “Number one, we want a safe space. A safe space for students to come and sit down. A safe space where we talk about identity. A safe space that belongs to us.”

He continued listing other goals, the second being advocacy and empowerment as a route to social justice while the last goal took longer to explain.

 “And then the final goal, we’re still struggling. I don’t have an answer but I’m going to pass it onto you. And that is we want to make the university look like the state of California. Ethnic minorities are 63% and counting of the great state of California and we want the university to look like the great state of California from top to bottom, from left to right. The faculty, the student body, the curriculum, the administrators and on down the line.”

After the speeches, there was a dinner for all the staff, students and alumni. During the dinner, Dr. White further elaborated on the issue of diversity inequality in the university. 

“The school opened in 1965 and I came four years later in 1969 […] the chancellor called me down here 50 years ago, they were digging a hole out there to start the school and asked me that same thing that they’ve been asking me, how can we build a university that looks like America. That was fifty years ago, he asked me that question. So 50 years later, we still got some work to do.”

In regards to change, he agreed in that it happened “in certain ethnic groups, but certain ones got left behind.”

“The answer has to come from two places. it has to come from leadership at the top of the academy. somebody who is in a leadership role, the vice chancellor, the chancellor, has to make it crystal clear that we want a university that looks like America.”

He recounted how the university stated it will deal with this issue. “Now the Chancellor has said to me and to others that he’s going to deal with this issue of black faculty. That’s what he said. He’s going to deal with the issue, he’s going to do something that works, and hire people as senior administrators who are willing to take on this challenge and carry it out.”

He gave a last statement about the reality of his circumstances. “When I came into the world I had four strikes against me. I’m black, I’m male, I’m from a one parent family and poor. And you go to any prison in California and you’ll find black males with the same four [characteristics]. So you have to figure out what happened and why I’m sitting here and not in the prison.”

During his time speaking, Dr. White left a message for all UCI students about diversity on campus and what they can do about it.

“Your job is not to define the problem, your job is to solve the problem. Let’s find some problem solvers to make the university look like the great state of California, top to bottom, left to right.”