Today begins a series of celebrations for the Cross Cultural Center’s (CCC) 25th anniversary.
Throughout the last 25 years, the CCC has aimed to encourage and empower the UC Davis community. It has served as a channel through which students of color could voice their concerns and has stood as a pillar, lending support to the needs of students. It has become a guidepost, pointing students to the best resources for pursuing higher education. While the above is not an exhaustive list of the CCC’s accomplishments, it is clear that its influence radiates beyond the walls of the humble L-shaped establishment.
Steven Baissa, director of the CCC, described the anniversary events as not only celebrating the center’s accomplishments, but also as paying respect to the groundwork that made the CCC what it is today.
“[The first goal] is really to acknowledge the important work of our alumni. We didn’t come as a result of a proactive measure by our campus, but by the courageous act of students who saw a need and wanted to create a space that acknowledged student voices and student empowerment.” Baissa said.
Therefore, the first event of the anniversary celebration commemorates the six-day hunger strike that started on May 14, 1990. Assembled by four students, Andrea Gaytan, Gopal Dayaneni, Ahmanal Dorsey and Jose Quiñonez, the strike was a call to action for social justice at UC Davis. The students vowed to only survive on water until three critical demands were met, one of which included the creation of an on-campus cultural center.
“The hunger strike was instrumental in bringing about the CCC, which is why we celebrate it as the start of the CCC’s history, though the center itself opened in 1992,” said Kriti Garg, the organizer of Honoring the Hunger Strike of May 1990.
Honoring the Hunger Strike runs from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Student Community Center multi-purpose room. The original four hunger strike members themselves will be there, sharing their experiences from the pivotal period of UC Davis history. There will also be art created by student activists, a spoken word performance by Fong Tran, performances by Danzantes del Alma and an Activist History timeline.
Esther Ebuehi, a junior human development and economics double major, has been involved with the CCC since her first year at UC Davis. Currently, she is the African Diaspora community coordinator and has been assisting Garg with the Activist Timeline for the hunger strike event. She said that her time with the CCC, as well as just preparing for the anniversary, has been full of many eye-opening experiences.
“Learning about our campus history was a humbling experience [and] it’s so awesome what students have done on this campus,” Ebuehi said. “I have grown in my understanding of my own ethnic identity and I have had the privilege to work with students from other communities who share the same passion for social justice.”
For its next event, the CCC will host a gala at the ARC Ballroom on May 30. The gala features keynote speaker Kim Katrin Milan, who will expound on the significance of spaces like the CCC. The lineup also includes talks from alumni and past directors, an overview of CCC’s history, performances and dining.
“The gala on May 30 is about celebrating the CCC itself, and providing an opportunity for folks to give back too,” Garg said.
Following the gala is “An Evening with Dr. Cornel West”, in which the renowned activist and philosopher will share his devotion to empowering communities and the masses. The event will be at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts on May 30 at 8 p.m.
Baissa expressed hope for Dr. West to address the future of higher education – namely, ways to approach an increasingly diverse, complex and global educational system.
“Our chancellor is pushing [UC Davis] as ‘the campus of the 21st century,’ moving us forward in a new vision of planning what the university of the 21st century should look like,” Baissa said. “I hope Dr. West will speak to what a higher education will look like for people that come from marginalized, underrepresented and underserved spaces.”
While celebrating the CCC and its work, Baissa also addressed the necessity of bringing awareness to the center and its values. He stated that though a lot of people might not know about the CCC, he hopes that the anniversary events will be good exposure for everything the center stands for.
“The thing that I’m after is helping students to thrive, not just to tolerate or to survive,” Baissa said. “I want students to know that [the CCC is] a space that always has their best interest at heart; student success is at the core of everything we do.”
For further information about the CCC and the 25th anniversary events, please visit the CCC’s official website.
Update 5/14/15: The location for Honoring the Hunger Strike was moved from the Mrak Hall lawn to the Student Community Center due to the chance of rain.