Student projects address systemic racism

New Cal Lutheran fellowships to broaden awareness

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Landry Irumva is organizing a networking forum to connect Black Cal Lutheran students with local Black leaders. 

(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Nov. 3, 2020) Three students are spearheading projects to increase awareness of systemic racism in health care, the media and the workplace as recipients of new fellowships launched by California Lutheran University in partnership with community organizations.

Zino Ayetuoma, Landry Irumva and Elysia Williams are the first Community Scholars for Black Lives selected by Cal Lutheran faculty and staff and local chapter members of long-established national and international civil rights, community service and Black Greek-letter organizations.

A challenge from North Central University in Minnesota for colleges to establish George Floyd memorial scholarships led Cal Lutheran to develop the fellowships, which are open to students of any background. The goal of the Community Scholars for Black Lives program is to broaden awareness, eliminate negative stereotypes and stop marginalization that leads to normalized mistreatment of Black people.

After hearing presentations about local needs from partner organizations, each student proposed a project to address conditions that contribute to the oppression of Black people. Each is receiving a $5,000 fellowship, up to $2,000 in project funding, and travel funds to attend a conference. Amgen Foundation provided a two-year grant for the program. Cal Lutheran faculty and professionals from Amgen and partner organizations will serve as mentors and advisers.

A senior from Woodland Hills, California, majoring and conducting research in biological sciences, Ayetuoma plans to educate people about medical racism and its effect on the Black community by creating a website and scheduling a speaker on the topic. Formerly a hospital volunteer and member of the Sickle Cell Impact Group at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Ayetuoma plans to become a hematologist oncologist, a specialist in disorders including sickle-cell disease. 

Irumva, a native of Kigali, Rwanda, is organizing a networking forum to connect Black Cal Lutheran students with local Black leaders. The seminars and workshops will address the challenges Black people face in the workforce and provide tips for success. A junior political science major who is president of the College Democrats and a senior senator at Cal Lutheran, he volunteers for political campaigns and interned for Sen. Kamala D. Harris in 2019. He plans to earn a law degree.

A junior English major from Temecula, California, Williams is starting a virtual book club that will read novels with positive Black coming-of-age stories. A member of Cal Lutheran’s Her Campus chapter, she has written articles about the need to expose people to these types of stories and other Black issues for its online magazine. She plans to become a high school English teacher or work for a publishing company.

“When I see someone who looks like me on screen, their character goes through harsh trauma and their story ends in tragedy. I want to show our younger generation that there are positive coming-of-age stories of our people,” Williams said. 

The partner organizations are Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. — Xi Iota Lambda Chapter, the Channel Islands Chapter of The Links Inc., NAACP Ventura County, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. — Psi Xi Chapter, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. — Ventura County Alumnae Chapter and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. — Xi Kappa Omega Chapter.