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Black Humboldt: making Black voices heard

This April, Black Humboldt will celebrate its four-year anniversary. The organization was co-founded by Monique Harper-Desir and Dionna Ndlovu. An organization created to be a safe and fun space for Black community members in a county that is overwhelmingly White. 

Harper-Desir has lived in Humboldt County since 2015 when she arrived from Massachusetts with her roommate. Having lived in the area for some time she noticed that there wasn’t really a strong Black presence. 

“The closest thing that existed was a group called BMEN, which stands for Black Male Empowerment Network but that was exclusively for men,” Harper-Desir said. “As well as the African American Center for Academic Excellence at HSU that provided resources for Black students.”

Monique Harper-Desir (left), Dionna Ndlovu, founders of Black Humboldt. | Photo by Vanessa Flores

Black Humboldt’s mission statement is to “enlighten, empower and entertain our Black community in Humboldt County through events made FOR US and BY US.”

Since it began, Black Humboldt has held networking mixers, cultural events, and resources for the Black and Brown members of Humboldt County. One of their goals is to create, maintain, and sustain economic empowerment for the Black community.

“It has grown a lot,” said Harper-Desir. “We have expanded our directory of Black-owned businesses and outreach in our community in general is at least three or four times as many Black members than we had since the beginning.”

Black Book for Humboldt County

Recently, Black Humboldt collaborated with the Umoja Center for Pan African Student Excellence at Cal Poly Humboldt to create a Black Book* for Humboldt County. 

“Students in the center were thinking about ways we can get resources to our Black campus community,” said Douglas Smith, Umoja center coordinator. 

The Umoja center asked Black Humboldt if they would add their Black and people of color business directory to the Black Book. They agreed and the Umoja center had the book published in spring 2021. An updated version of the Black Book is set to be released sometime this year. People can find a pdf version of the book at www.umoja.humboldt.edu.

Douglas Smith holding The Black Book for Humboldt County at the Umoja Center on January 26. | Photo by Ricardo Lara Nava

Jaguar Smith, student assistant at the Umoja Center has been collaborating with Black Humboldt to create events for students and local Black community members. 

“As far as I know Black Humboldt has been the first one in our generation to make it a point to create a community outside of campus,” Jaguar Smith said. 

Currently, she is organizing a movie night event in collaboration with Black Humboldt at Northtown Coffee that is set to be held on Feb. 11 from 6 to 9 p.m.

Community Resources

Black Humboldt has been able to give back to the Black and Brown community in Humboldt County through projects like the Home Alone Project and COVID-19 relief funds. 

The Home Alone project focuses on students and community members who can’t afford to go home to see their families. This project provides home-cooked meals as well as small gifts to make people feel at home in Humboldt county.

“I think that we often overlook students being able to travel home and it was just something that was brought to our attention more so during the pandemic,” Harper-Desir said. 

With the help of the Humboldt Area Foundation and in collaboration with the Eureka Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Black Humboldt started a Black COVID-19 Relief Fund that helped 110 people with rent, groceries, or basic needs. They hope to continue giving relief to members of the community again sometime in the future.

Black Humboldt also ran a podcast called Black Aesthetic where they invited local Black artists and community members to talk about their work or what it means to live the Black experience in everything from arts to life in general. Currently, it is unsure when it will return.

Future Goals and Events 

Harper-Desir hopes that Black Humboldt will get a community center in the future, “right now we are not located anywhere, and we are just a group of volunteers putting stuff in our garages,” she said. “But if none of those things come true, we are happy at being a resource to the Black and Brown community.”

To get involved with Black Humboldt, people can fill out the form on their website under the contact tab. Black Humboldt and the Umoja Center will be having many events during Black Liberation Month. More information can be found at www.blackhumboldt.com and www.umoja.humboldt.edu.

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