SF State’s Black community celebrates their Black women

From+left+to+right%2C+Teylor+Jones%2C+Myra+Odedina+and+Adokor+Swankier+pose+for+a+photo+at+the+Black+Women%27s+Appreciation+event+on+February+20%2C+2020+in+the+Annex.+%28Photo+by+Maddison+October+%2F+Golden+Gate+Xpress%29+

Maddison October

From left to right, Teylor Jones, Myra Odedina and Adokor Swankier pose for a photo at the Black Women’s Appreciation event on February 20, 2020 in the Annex. (Photo by Maddison October / Golden Gate Xpress)

Felicia Hyde

Growing up with a biracial background of Filipina and African American, connecting with my black side was always a struggle for me because I was never seen as “not black enough”. I didn’t embrace or feel in tune with my blackness until I came to SF State and learned how to feel comfortable in my own skin. I learned what it felt like to be proud of your ethnic identity and appreciated my skin tone, identity and cultural background, and saw a whole new world of what it meant to be a Black woman when I saw and felt appreciation from SF State’s Black community. 

Last Thursday night, SF State’s Black Women’s Appreciation: Garden of Goddesses event celebrated the excellence of Black females, allowing women to embrace themselves no matter their size, shape or skin tone and be praised by the Black community. 

“Not just anyone would come out and be like, ‘Oh, I want to appreciate a Black woman’ like it’s not something that is common,” said Ikeoluwa Oladoja, a freshman who attended the event. “A white person wouldn’t just say oh, I want to appreciate a Black woman just because I feel like it’s only Black people that will do that.” 

Lee Twyman, a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., founded the Black Women’s Appreciation event back in February 2000 as well as an Elder’s Appreciation Luncheon for families and the community. Twyman said the focus of the Black Women’s event was to help women within the Black community to know they are loved and appreciated no matter what. 

The event was not only for those who attended SF State or a part of the Black community, but welcomed families, loved ones and others who wanted to share their appreciation for these women. 

While Oladoja said she already feels good in her skin, she still enjoyed the experience of feeling appreciated by others.

“Black people are like the most beautiful people in the world to me,” Oladoja said.

As the young men served food to the women, the evening began with a ceremony where the crowd recognized ancestors and loved ones who passed away. Dorothy Tsuruta, a professor within the Africana Studies department, led the libations for the night before any singing, spoken word and dancing took place. 

“This Black student event continues as it has over the years to be so very lovely and gracious,” said Tsuruta. “The honor paid to the ancestors surely makes the ancestors proud of our wonderful Black students.” 

After it’s launch 20 years ago, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. joined efforts to continue to show appreciation for Black women and eventually began a Black Men’s Appreciation event as well. As time went on, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. took the lead in hosting the event in collaboration with SF State’s Black Student Union.  

Black Women’s Appreciation is the biggest event in the Black community at SF State, according to Daniel Ogbonna, a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. who volunteered in the past and originally heard about it through BSU like many others, continuing to keep it going. 

“Black Women at San Francisco State do so much for this community and every year they deserve to be appreciated in the right way,” said Ogbonna. “BSU, ASA (African Student Association) , BBSA (Black Business Students Association) , Divine 9 (Black Greek organizations) etc., all those women on the boards or in positions of leadership work day and night to better the San Francisco State Community.”

For many students like Hanna Almaz Ahadu, a first year english literature and race and resistance major, being at an event full of appreciation toward the Black community was a first. 

“I grew up around little to no black peers and it’s so refreshing to be surrounded by my amazing community members here at SF State,” said Ahadu. “It’s important because it helps us all remember and pay respect to the people who are in fact the cradle of civilization itself-Black women.”

Towards the end of the night women leaders in the Black community received awards for leadership. Many students like Hiwot Dereje, a junior who attended the event a number of times, felt BSU succeeded in the demonstration of appreciation with attention to detail and well-coordinated organization.

“It’s not often that Black women enter spaces where they are appreciated and looked after. It’s nice that events like this are put on every year,” Dereje said. “I identify as Black because I’m an Ethiopian and this event meant to me that no matter what, Black women should be appreciated.”

Black Men’s Appreciation will be held Feb. 27 in the Annex from 7-9 p.m.