Eddie Bell, author, poet and retired Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, State University of New York recently visited the Inland Empire at the invitation of California State University, San Bernardino President Dr. Tomas Morales. The following is Bell’s account of his visit to the Inland Empire:
When the invitation to visit the California State University San Bernardino arrived from Dr. Tomas D. Morales, the campus president, I quickly accepted. We agreed on a February date to commemorate Black History Month. Prior to the invite, I mailed two of my poetry books and a compact disc to be reviewed by Professor Juan Delgado, the chair of MFA Creative Writing program. He appreciated my work and agreed to arrange my literary schedule.
I soon got to work selecting poems and structuring my talks. My one-week residency was to include readings and writing craft discussions with undergraduate and master’s level creative writing students.
Over the coming weeks community presentations and talks with student groups were added to my itinerary. Campus staff kept me informed as things progressed and welcomed my input throughout the planning stages.
With my preparations complete and my bags packed I boarded U.S. Air Flight 592 on my way to the Inland Empire.
That evening after sharing a dinner with my hosts and Dr. Brian Haynes, CSUSB Vice President of Student Affairs, I drove to the Hilton in San Bernardino and settled in for the night.
Sunday morning found me worshipping at Principles of Faith Christian Center where Pastor Mannie L. Brodie leads an enthusiastic congregation. Pastor Brodie extended an invitation accompany him to meetings of the Westside Action Group (WAG) and the Inland Empire African American Council of Pastors.
Professor Juan Delgado hosted the evening program that kicked off with captivating readings by several of his creative writing students. I chose to read poems that focused on my family’s contribution to Black History as well a selection that addressed the tragedy of Black lynching.
This was also my first face-to-face meeting with Professor Delgado and over the course of the week we developed a budding friendship.
I had time to ponder my surroundings before my formal luncheon with President Morales and his cabinet. The lovely campus is spacious with its background of looming mountains that seem close enough to touch. It was obvious that care is being taken to keep the campus clean and orderly. The days I spent moving from place to place were blessed with abundant sunshine and bright azure skies.
The really beautiful thing about CSUSB is its diverse student body, colorful like a summer rainbow. What a joy to observe these young men and women (whom many are the first in their family to go to college) going about the business of learning, enjoying campus life and preparing to be our country’s future leaders.
That afternoon I met with the Student African American Brotherhood and their advisor, Anthony Roberson. Mr. Roberson is the Student Union’s Scheduling Coordinator. This group of outstanding young men possessed a thorough grasp of the challenges their younger peers face growing up in difficult communities. All seemed willing to reach back and offer advice and counsel aimed at helping vulnerable young men survive the streets and move on to positive achievements.
Jesse Felix, Operations Manager of the Santos Manuel Student Union, summed up his description of many in the student body this way: “We’re poor. We’re first generation. We have heart.”