‘We will not go back:’ Black leaders urge students to be transformative leaders amid success, tragedy

California Secretary of State Shirley Weber
California Secretary of State Shirley Weber was the keynote speaker during the fifth anniversary of the Women of Color Roar Breakfast at Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023.
(Kristian Carreon/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Hundreds attended the Black History Month breakfast hosted by Women of Color Roar Media, which is starting a new leadership academy


State and local leaders gathered Feb. 4 in San Diego to celebrate women of color amid significant advancements and setbacks for Black communities around the country.

Hundreds attended the fifth annual Black History Month Breakfast, hosted by Women of Color Roar Media, and speakers called on California to follow through on reparations and exhorted young people to become transformative leaders.

Organizers also announced a new initiative to help the next generation attend college and run for office.

“This nation teeters on the brink of returning back to its old ways,” said California Secretary of State Shirley Weber, and she urged the crowd not to let hard-earned civil rights slip away.

Weber singled out Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose administration recently blocked a new Advanced Placement high school course on African American studies. That move was an attempt “to restore back a sense of ownership of White males,” she said. “We will not go back.”

The Feb. 4 event took place at the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation in San Diego. The morning honored a range of organizations and elected leaders, many of whom were the first Black women to hold their positions, and happened to take place the same day as rallies around the region, including in Encinitas, continue to honor Tyre Nichols, the 29-year-old Black man fatally beaten last month by Memphis police.

Many speeches addressed the challenges facing non-White residents, especially women.

Karen Bass, the new mayor of Los Angeles, spoke on Zoom.

The main problem facing California was “income inequality,” she said. “Homelessness is a manifestation of that.” Bass pledged to work closely with mayors around the state, including Todd Gloria in San Diego, to reduce the number of people sleeping on the street.

“I am looking forward to learning from you and all that you have done,” Bass told Gloria.

Many attendees came from area high schools.

Angela de Joseph, the founder of Women of Color Roar Media, said her group was launching a new leadership academy to connect students with internships and scholarships. It would also lead workshops on topics like financial literacy and how to find a job, she said.

California’s chief fiscal officer, Controller Malia Cohen, told young people “to stay focused, have your faith and to be fierce.”

D’Ajanae Lewis, a senior at San Diego High School, later said she was struck by the passion shown on stage.

“There are not a lot of moments where people are really confident in what they do,” she said in an interview. “Being fierce just makes everything better.”

Lewis, who is captain of her basketball team, said she hopes to become a nurse.

Several people wore dresses featuring portraits of major female leaders, painted by the artist T.L. Duryea, and the Buki Domingos’ Trio brought the room to its feet with a soaring rendition of the song, “A Change Is Gonna Come.”

“A Black woman’s agenda” is “everybody’s agenda,” said Geneviéve Jones-Wright, a former public defender who now leads the local nonprofit Community Advocates for Just and Moral Governance.

She noted that San Diego has never had a Black mayor. “I hope to God I’m sitting in the room with the next one,” she said.