Speakers from the Black Student Union presented “What is Black: A Leadership Perspective Seminar” Feb. 28, which provided insight into black community life in Sonoma County and expressed the need for a black community center in Santa Rosa.
Throughout the seminar, panelists spoke about the importance of having a cultural space for those who have been historically underrepresented in Sonoma County. “We are not well presented in this county. We need a cultural center. It’s a necessity,” student body president Delashay Carmona Benson said during the seminar.
Dr. Jaqueline Lawrence, founder of Legacy Showcases, a Santa Rosa-based black production company, agreed. “[We need] A place where we can come to the table without anyone else really speaking our truth. Sometimes we don’t feel comfortable talking with people who don’t look like us,” she said.
Nancy Rogers, vice president of the Northbay Black Chamber of Commerce, proposed having a shared building for all Sonoma County residents who have been historically underrepresented, perhaps through the use of funds from ARPA.
The seminar also offered insight into the historical and cultural heritage of Sonoma County’s black community. Dr. Jim Gray, vice president of 100 Black Men of Sonoma, spoke about the county’s historic support for the Confederacy and the legacy of John Richards, the man who helped open the first African-American school of service. of Sonoma County and owned 130 acres of land as a refuge for other African Americans in Sonoma County. These lands would later become the South Park neighborhood of Santa Rosa.
Santa Rosa vice mayor and council member Natalie Rogers was also on the panel, who said the county is also considering creating a program for black homeowners to pay a lower percentage of a down payment on a home.
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