Black History Month event draws small crowd with big conversations


Erik Adams

Lauren Williams presenting. Photo by Erik Adams.

Erik Adams, Senior Multimedia Reporter

Discussions of culture, personal empowerment and embracing individuality filled the room in Cal State LA’s Career Center in Feb., as the “Black is Not a Monolith” workshop went underway.

Despite a room of about 20 chairs, only about four of them were filled throughout most of the workshop. But those who were in attendance engaged with the content and helped contribute to an intimate dialogue about personal achievements, drawbacks and struggles.

Lauren Williams, a Cal State LA career adviser, led the talk and encouraged attendees to think about their unique characteristics and how they can use them to help navigate their career paths.

The diverse factors of culture were a large part of the meeting’s dialogue.

Williams spoke about different branches of culture that ultimately form the whole self.

Examples of these branches include familial culture (the skills and cues gathered from close personal connections), social culture and aspirational culture. Williams’ PowerPoint described the latter as “having hopes for the future, even in the absence of current success.”

“We do holistic building of your whole professional self,” Williams said.

Some of the other main focuses of William’s message were authenticity and the practice of having a “growth mindset.”

“Your skills are not fixed,” Williams said. “They’re forever growing based upon the different experiences you have.”

She used climbing a mountain as a metaphor.

“It’s not Mt. Everest, where you are climbing and there’s a for-sure top,” she said. “I’m going to be forever climbing, in a way, and enjoying the ride.”

Black History Month helped inspire Williams to put together the presentation. She explained Black culture as being diverse and fluid.

“There’s different identities within Blackness,” Williams said. “No culture is a monolith.”

Tia Jones, a sociology and child development major, was an attendee at the workshop. She said the talk helped her better understand her cultural wealth.

Jones said she was hoping to more people would have attended the event.

“I would like to see more Black students come to these events because they’re really helpful,” Jones said. “Even if you don’t get a reward for coming to this stuff, the real reward is finding yourself and learning new information to help you grow… I wish [students] would take more advantage. Even if you’re not Black.”

But this won’t be the last time Cal State LA students will have the chance to participate in an event like Wednesday’s.

“This is not just a ‘one and done’ sort of piece,” Williams said, further explaining that more events might be in store for summer and fall 2023. “We could be rolling out some other workshops on this topic, maybe expanding upon it further, too. This is definitely not the end.”

Williams said others in the career center could contribute to future talks and bring different perspectives to the table.

“I believe that’s when you can grow the most, when you have different ways of thinking all coming together,” Williams said.