Former San Diego State Activists Share Years of Protest Experiences – The Daily Aztec
“Black history is a reminder of our contributions to the world. For too long, our history has been hidden. Our creations have been hijacked by those who want us to believe that we never created anything, so we don’t matter. They deliberately hid our truths, not publishing any of our achievements and not sharing this truth with the world. Black history informs the world of our accomplishments. Governments and super-capitalists owe the black race a great debt for the inhuman genocidal cruelty they have exercised against our people. Black history is a reminder to speak truth to power, to remain vigilant about our civil liberties, and to fight for our rights as citizens of the world” – Henry Wallace.
On Thursday, February 3, the San Diego State Black Resource Center, the Center for Intercultural Relations, the African Students Union, and the One SDSU community hosted a Zoom event where speakers Henry Wallace and Jazzalyn Livingston spoke of their rise to the defense of black people in San Diego. What led to their involvement in advocating for black rights came from harrowing experiences that fueled their determination to make a difference in their community.
ASU members Jaylen Citizen and Ava Walker were co-hosts of this event and took note of Wallace and Livingston’s accomplishments.
“Henry W.allace has contributed to the San Diego community by standing up for marginalized communities,” Citizen said. “In 2016, he was interviewed by the SDSU Digital Library to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Black Panther Party. Currently, Wallace serves as president of the San Diego Original Black Panther Party for Community Empowerment.
Livingsting, with her many accomplishments, is also an SDSU alumnus.
“Jazzlyn Livingston is the Chair of the UCSD Black Student Union Board of Trustees. Ms. Livingston served as director of student affairs for the Afrikan Black Coalition, California’s largest black college organization, as well as national program manager for the youth and college division of the NAACP,” Walker said.
Wallace and Livingston reflected on many of their past experiences, which led them to their activism today.
In 1965, Wallace and the other band members were preparing for a show in Richmond when a riot broke out. Police were firing their guns from the rooftop, and Wallace had to hide in a black-owned funeral home for security reasons. It was then that Wallace’s family decided to move to San Diego. In San Diego, Wallace’s sister and boyfriend were approached by Eldridge Cleaver of the Black Panther Party and offered to open a chapter in the city. One day, while Mr. Wallace was selling newspapers with his family, cops stopped them because they thought they were Bulgarizing.
“The disrespect was so strong that I was forced to quit my entertainment and start becoming an advocate for my people and from there I started to really understand what our people were going through,” said Wallace.
Livingston grew up in Los Angeles in the 90s at a time when city conditions were shaping the community. At the age of 13, she lost her 19-year-old brother Curtis to gun violence.
“Whether it’s violence in our community, police brutality, vigilante targeting black communities, there’s a number of gun violence happening in our community at a very sad rate where we’re losing a lot of young people. My brother was one of those young people. It was the time when advocacy allowed me to start using my voice and sharing my brother’s story,” Livingston said.
The stories that Wallace and Livingston discussed had parallel dynamics. Even though they grew up in different times, their experiences highlighted the unfair treatment of innocent people, lack of resources, and a broken capitalist system in the black community. However, their perseverance in their advocacy has led them to uplift their community through the organizations they are part of. Wallace shared that in 1966 the Black Panther Party created a ten-point platform that listed ideals and modes of operation. Applications for this platform can be found here.
Livingston’s organization, Black Girls Leadership Academy was created in 2020 to provide young black women with digital literacy where they can find resources for “educational equity and manage mental and emotional stress through mentorship, schooling, culture, exploration, community service and dealing with economic instability in the secret new reality,” according to Livingston.
Those who attended this event learned a lot about advocating for black rights, not only in San Diego, but also on campus.
“I want SDSU students to know that the members of the San Diego Original Black Panther Party were SDSU (SDSC) students, that from this campus, the Original Black Panther Party of San Diego was started by two students ( Mr. Kenneth Denmon and his girlfriend Mrs. Shirley Jean Meadors),” Wallace said. “They were members of the SDSU Black Student Union. Therefore, you are all honorary San Diego Black Panther Cubs. I pass the baton to your generation to continue the struggle for equal justice, the peaceful pursuit of happiness, and the righting of wrongs in civic life and education.
The BRC is located at 5723 Lindo Paseo. They are open Monday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.