On Sunday evening, May 28, students, sponsors, and other attendees dressed their finest for the Forward Gala at La Sierra University in Riverside.

The Gala, sponsored by the school’s Black Student Union, was an evening of entertainment, scholarship awards, and featured keynote speaker Professor Angela Yvonne Davis.

The Black Student Union, an organization that promotes diversity, provides an outlet for all minorities, is a support network, and creates programs for students of La Sierra University.

The Gala began with a small dinner before everyone was invited into the auditorium for a ceremony, where Gianluca Gibbons served as Master of Ceremonies. The presentations included poems by Kito Fortune and Jasmin Johnson, and musical selections by Dawn Forbes and Tamara Richards.

Scholarships were presented to four students for their hard work and dedication. The competition for scholarships was intense—more than thirty students applied for this year’s honors.Jode-Leigh Nembhard, President of the Black Student Union, talked about the organization’s first event, a film screening of the documentary 13th. When a student shared the perspective of a relative who was incarcerated, the Black Student Union realized what their objective would be—to learn more about racism in the criminal justice system.

It was with great planning and determination that the Black Student Union and their sponsors succeeded in securing Angela Davis to speak at the Gala.

“We discussed having Angela Davis on our campus, but I think deep down inside we thought it was an impossible feat. But what we thought was impossible turned into: maybe this can really happen. We reached out, we left it in God’s hands, and waited for her response. About mid-April, we got a reply. She said yes,” Nembhard shared.

Professor Davis, feminist, activist, and writer, has been profoundly involved in movements for social justice around the world since the 1960s. Angela Davis is a founding member of Critical Resistance, a national organization dedicated to dismantling the prison industrial complex. Internationally, she is affiliated with Sisters Inside, an abolitionist organization based in Queensland, Australia that works in solidarity with women in prison.Near the end of the event, Angela Davis took the stage to speak on feminism, racial capitalism, the prison industrial complex, and the current division in our country.

“I am very happy that you recognize how crucial it is to combine and acknowledge the social and economic and political problems that persist with a celebration of the victories we have won. There’s often a tendency to insist on choosing to do one thing or the other. Either we have made progress in the direction of black freedom and racial equality or no matter how many victories, it seems as if we find ourselves fighting the same battles over and over again because essentially nothing has changed. And, I want to suggest that both of these are true,” said Davis.

Angela Davis, the Black Student Union committee, and the attendees showed through their celebration that there is strength and social movement currently active in the Black community, while there is also a long way to go for complete equality.

It not only takes ambition, but also civic participation to make this happen.Shiane Daima Jacocks