Black in Bloom symposium spotlights successful black people in various fields of work

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Chefs, scholars, rappers, writers and entrepreneurs all gathered in the Titan Student Union on Tuesday to spotlight African-Americans in a variety of careers.

Black in Bloom, a symposium presented by the African American Studies Department at Cal State Fullerton, was a focal point for CSUF students and community partners across Southern California to celebrate and connect with creatives and engage in discussions about black identity, music, cuisine and literary arts.

Natalie Graham, associate professor of African-American studies and coordinator of the symposium, said Black in Bloom was inspired by students currently in her African-American courses.

“I love teaching students and thinking about ways that they can have high impact practices and get outside of the classroom, outside of the textbook and also see practitioners in their field, so all of those things were part of the reason and logic behind making sure they were able to participate,” Graham said.

Through collaboration with the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and Associated Students, guests and students heard from featured speakers including filmmaker Maya Washington, award-winning chef Bryant Terry and Olympia Auset, the founder of a low-cost Los Angeles grocery service called SÜPRMARKT.

The symposium began with a screening of Washington’s award-winning short film “Clear,” which focuses on the relationship between a mother and her teen daughter as they try to make up for the 16 years together they lost because of a wrongful conviction.

(Tricia Lasha / Daily Titan)

During a Q&A session, Washington talked about her co-producer, Tina Nagata Barr, who was the inspiration behind the film as she provided resources to exonerees relieved of wrongful convictions.

“I am definitely someone who likes to create art with a purpose … I love my friend Tina and collaborating in the academic community and finding ways for the work to actually land somewhere,” Washington said.

Maria Vargas, a sophomore kinesiology major at CSUF, came to the symposium to hear more about Washington’s films after previously meeting her during a class taught by Graham.

“I liked how Washington presented everything, she’s really engaging with other students and inspiring, and I want to see more of her work,” Vargas said.

The symposium was also a space where CSUF students could reach out and network through their professors. Graham said she wanted to provide an interactive learning experience outside of the classroom.

“I want students to be more connected to the idea of creating knowledge and art,” Graham said. “I think, a lot of times, undergraduate students feel they’re in a position of learning knowledge and appreciating art but not creating it. I want students to think of themselves as more makers and creators.”

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