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By Jullien Gordon

Last Spring, the African community at UCLA was devastated. In May of 2004, 12-year old, Gregory Gabriel, a participant in UCLA African Student Union’s SHAPE after school academic achievement program, was shot and killed on an adolescent adventure to a youth night club in South Central after sneaking out from a sleep over. A few weeks later, Charles Gross, a 3rd year political science major, president of the UCLA Stocks & Bonds financial literacy organization, and NOMMO assistant editor was on track to graduate a year early, when he was unexpectedly shot on the porch of his home in Compton in May of 2004. An individual’s commitment to educational achievement no longer shields them from the evil, the crime, and the hate that infect our community. The stories of these two young Black men serve as a reminder to us all that no man is an island unto himself and that an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

UCLA (or Westwood) can be considered a world within itself. On this campus, we still deal with unlawful policies (the end of Affirmative Action), discrimination (no Diversity Requirement), poverty (lack of financial aid), and even police brutality. No microcosm can exist without a macrocosm, thus UCLA is not an escape from reality; reality is merely downsized. It is in this type of environment where an individual is able to realize their potential because they can take risk, trying things they may have never considered trying on the global scale. Giant fears shrink into conquerable challenges. UCLA is a controlled experimental environment that provides time for student like ourselves to practice, evaluate, and refine our ideas and plans for the future. An on-campus community service organization is a microcosm of a non-profit or small business in the same way that our student government is a microcosm of world politics. If one cannot execute their “practice” plan on a college campus, chances are that they will struggle when they try to in the real world. This is also to say that individuals who don’t contribute to their on-campus community are not likely to contribute to their community at large once (and if) they graduate.

Though we as Black Bruins have been isolated by the 405, 10, and 110 freeways, a terrible public transportation system, high parking prices, and heaps of homework, these are just the erroneous factors we use to excuse ourselves from our responsibility to our community. Without ever leaving campus, how can one significantly impact or even know their community? Without ever leaving campus, one becomes disconnected and loses touch with their roots; when our primary reason for begin here is to uplift our people. Regardless of who you are or where you are, one can never detach themselves from the conditions that their people face worldwide. Without a football or basketball jersey, African athletes (and rap artist) are seen as nothing more than criminals and prisoners to most of the world. Thus, if the world doesn’t value our global gladiators outside of the sports arena, then how much more will they honor any individual of color, whose face they don’t even recognize whether they are educated or not. To be blunt, most of us hate being associated with Black and are unconsciously using our education to not only brighten our minds, but also the way the world views us. Thus, the greatest obstacle to the development of the Black community is our own selfishness which is motivated by our internal desire to become white.

We as African college students at UCLA have an obligation to our communities to share the well of wisdom we’ve been given unrestricted access to with the dying seeds (youth and ideas) of our community. There was no escape for Charles or Gregory, and there is no excuse for you or me. This is a warning to our college community, to prevent everyone from becoming the bourgeois that was created by the “system” to oppress its own people by creating class divisions among its own kind. Consider your college degree as a step forward for your people, not as a step up and above those who may not have the opportunity you have in being here.

We must act where we can impact and pray for what we cannot. The sequence of events that lead to a dead end for Gregory Gabriel and an untimely detour for Charles Gross was out of our control. Or were they? Could one of us potentially had the responsibility of mentoring the shooters in both instances, but failed to fulfill our responsibility out of our own selfishness. This inspiring individual could have been anyone of us, however, the guiltiest person is the person who has done the least. Below are various ways you can ways to positively affect your community from campus. If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. Ultimately, the goal is to share the knowledge and gifts you have been given. What is the purpose of your education if you cannot apply it?

1. Volunteer for an on-campus outreach or community service program
2. Put on some sort of workshop for your very own siblings and family members.
3. Bring a class from you high school up to your college campus for a tour
4. Create some sort of community service program that goes to schools, youth centers, or churches in local urban areas to educate them on various topics, skills, and professions.


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Jullien's Purpose Statement

My purpose is to help as many people as possible reach their full potential by helping them making a living doing what they love and in the process of doing so achieve my own. I want to do this through writing, speaking, and creating offline and online spaces that facilitate conversations around purpose.

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