Newsletter #1

Sankofa GS Course Class Visit

Andrea Papillon-Wilkes

My experience working as the Sankofa GS course instructor has been quite fulfilling. Being a part of building a culture of inclusivity and equality is my purpose. Despite our ancestors and great leaders like Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, and many others who have paved the way, there is still a lingering need to continue cultivating a culture that gives our Black students the opportunity, exposure, and support they need to succeed. The GS Sankofa course is crucial to ensuring success for our Black students, because our focus centers on their needs. As a GS Sankofa instructor supporting Black Excellence, I provide the direct one-on-one support that is foundational for a rewarding first-year college student experience.

I had the opportunity to work with Steven “The Prof” Cleveland on the Black Excellence Project, where he connected with the Sankofa Black students on several occasions. Steven was very skilled and clever in engaging with students, in sharing his own stories and those of other successful Black college students. In this experiment, I saw how students connected with Steven’s storytelling, which illustrated how much they shared with others who faced similar challenges as Black college students. As a result, their time with The Prof lifted their culture, inspired hope, and instilled pride in their own Black Excellence. 

University and community support for the Black Excellence Project is imperative, now more than ever, as our social climate constantly emphasizes how divided are global perspectives on who has the right to basic equality and the privilege of social justice. We need more awareness on our campuses of what Black students need to succeed. BEP is undeniably beneficial: it can and will help to guide future conversations about best practices on our campuses for supporting our Black students.

Steven embodies the core ingredients of the Black Excellence Project. Through his remarkable leadership at Cal State East Bay, he has proven that BEP works. For this epic project to continue to flourish through the California State University system and beyond, Steven “The Prof” Cleveland is the person we need to bridge the gaps with cultural inclusivity, helping our Black students meet the challenges they face. Undeniably, the Sankofa GS course and Black Excellence Project have thus far been a life-changing experience for our Black student body and the University: it must continue. 

Black Excellence Project 2023

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