The 50th anniversary of the ethnic studies department empowered its attendees


Speaking at the podium is Professor Emeritus Dr. Gerald (Gerry) Padilla, founding member of the Ethnic Studies Program of Fullerton College, celebrating its 50th anniversary at campus quad event, Wednesday, May 10, 2023. Photo credit: Gerardo Chagolla

Sara Leon, Managing Editor

“It’s not about me, it’s about we” was phrase that could be heard multiple times throughout Fullerton College’s Ethnic Studies 50th Anniversary as an important reminder of what the department is all about.

After being stagnant for the first several minutes, the event started to fill with curious onlookers that had a pleasant surprise in store for them.

The celebration was beautifully adorned at the heart with vendors selling handcrafted items and inviting workshops that sat on the outskirts. The ethnic studies department made sure that no attendee was left without something to do.

“To me, this celebration means being a part of something that’s bigger than myself,” said alumni of the ethnic studies department Guadalupe Cisneros.

Cisneros was also a part of the vendor marketplace, selling handcrafted scenes, press flowers, pins, poems, and more.

Also at the event was women’s nonprofit organization Mujeres De Maiz who were more than happy to run some of the invigorating workshops for the celebration.

“The theme for one of our workshops was poster making for political posters,” said Martha Carrillo, a member of Mujeres De Maiz. “A lot of people who participated were talking a lot about speaking out about issues they felt were important. So they were able to make posters for whatever they wanted to talk about.”

Ethnic studies major Becky Yingling also shared what she enjoyed about the event.

“I was here because it was actually required for one of my classes,” said Yingling. “But I am really enjoying it. I went to the posters workshop and created my own poster and I got some really good tacos.”

Served at this event was free all you can eat tacos and aguas frescas such as jamaica (hibiscus) and horchata (sweet rice water). Once people got wind of how good the tacos were, the line didn’t stop until the taco truck ran out of supplies.

Although the event was filled with fun things to do and great things to eat, it was also meant to be taken as a day of importance.

“In essence, we’re teaching U.S. History, but in a holistic approach,” said retired African American Studies Professor and a founder of the ethnic studies department Ernest Bridges.

“We work with each student to try and give them the means to see who they are in the greater scheme of things and become a resource within themselves.”

Gerry Padilla, another founder of the ethnic studies department, also shared a few words of wisdom with the crowd.

“You have got to educate yourself. You have got to recognize that it’s not about me, it’s about we, and you must commit to the community,” said Padilla.

“Ethnic studies is a place to learn and grow and a place to heal,” explained ethnic studies faculty member Amber Rose Gonzalez. “For me as an ethnic studies student it was a place where I could be comfortable in my own skin and my identity. Now as an educator, it’s a calling.”

Having a love for community-based events, Fullerton College student Ro Salas was also in attendance, going to workshops and grabbing some of those free tacos before they were gone.

“This event and the ethnic studies department has made me realize how important it is the be educated. When I take an ethnic studies class, it makes me confident in my culture and academics,” said Salas. “I feel like I’m doing this in honor of my ancestors.”

In the second speech of the day, given by Bridges, he mentions, “I was interviewed a little while ago about just what is the ethnic studies department. I’m here to tell you today that this department is the soul of this campus.”

For more information on the ethnic studies department, please visit the Fullerton College Ethnic Studies Department website.