Barbara Lee honored by Merritt College

November 13, 2015 1:41 PM

Merritt College students are elated at the completion of the Barbara Lee Science and Allied Health Center. The new building dedication and ribbon ceremony took place on the Merritt campus on Nov. 6. Situated on what use to be a picturesque view called a “moonscape” is now a state-of-the-art science building overlooking the City of Oakland towards the bay.
The original science building, built in 1971, is old, outdated, with bad plumbing and old equipment. The committee planning the construction of the building thought it would be more cost-effective not to replace the old science building in the same location. The planning committee instead decided to find a new location on campus for the new science building, while the old building remains on campus.
The new science building’s theme is a capture of a specialized screen across the south and west faces of the building, which represents mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), structures within human cells that convert food to energy the body can use. With a spiral staircase evoking a double helix that comes together with the mtDNA, the state-of-the-art building has smart classrooms fully equipped with the latest technology equipment.
Bay Area artist Nina Fabunmi was commissioned to paint a portrait of Congresswoman Lee that will hang on the wall of the new science building. “I didn’t get much sleep last night, I wanted to make sure I finish the painting. It was hard work,” she said. “I ask the people in charge to send me photographs of Ms. Lee and to send pictures where she was not smiling, because I don’t like to paint teeth. But all the pictures were of her smiling.”
“So I picked a picture with her wearing a pen that was a symbol represented in Africa, where I am from. I have only been here for four months.”
The science building is named after Congresswoman Barbara Lee, of the 13th District; her district includes the Peralta Community College District. She did her undergraduate work at Vista Community College, now known as Berkeley City College. She is a Democrat in the House of Representatives, on the appropriations committee, and works on subcommittees on labor and human resources.

Barbara Lee

Oakland artist Nina Fabunmi stands next to Barbara Lee, flanked by the portrait she painted, at an event on Nov. 6

Lee is also a supporter of the idea of two years of free community colleges tuition. Before being elected to congress, she served in the state assembly and the state senate.
Lee has worked with the PCCD and the Oakland community to provide resources to higher education.
“My mother who is longer with us, once said to Elihu Harris, a friend of the family; my daughter should have something named after her.”
The ceremony began with the marching in of guards bringing forth the state flags; follow by two songs, “The Star Spangled Banner” and the “Black National Anthem.” Laney College culinary department catered the delightful appetites and VIP reception platters.
Romero Garcia, Dean of Special Programs at Merritt College was the master of ceremony and gave the audience instructions on how to show appreciation for the many dignitaries who’s names he would be calling off.
Instead of clapping for the over 50 names being read, the audience was instructed to clap once after each name was read.
Among the dignitaries attending the ceremony were the PCCD Board of Trustees and the presidents from each of the colleges in the district. Elihu Harris, former chancellor of the PCCD, Alameda City Mayor Trisha Spencer, Mayor of Berkeley Tom Bates, former San Francisco Mayor and California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown.
The list of dignitaries went on to include, Founder of the Black Panthers Organization Bobby Seale, and Laney College Classified Senate President James Blake, to name a few.
Merritt College President Dr. Norma Ambriz-Galaviz, introduced the platform guest and spoke proudly of this incredible moment taking place on her campus.
She is thankful for the involvement and hard work from the construction crew, architects, designers, contributors, and investors public and private.
Barbara Lee

Barbara Lee (center) poses with Barbara Rodgers (left) and Marlene Hurd (right) at the dedication of the Barbara Lee Science and Allied Health Center.

“I am so happy, joyful and proud of today’s ceremony, we can acknowledge the hard work of many individuals,” she said. “This building represents true equity in our schools; this equity should be offered to all students and the community shares in President Obama’s commitment and priorities to building facilities to be used for STEM research.
“This building will allow students to study STEMs, which is the priority for the four-story building and a critical component for students’ success in the sciences, technology and engineering.
“In 21st century learning, students are being prepared to think and become the innovators and leaders to deal with the challenges necessary to be effective in the community.”
She also added that students, administrators, faculty, staff and benefactors and are the true village that came together on this project. The supporters lent power to the project and the voices lent strength to over the work. “This has brought our community closer together as a result,” she said.
“Now Barbara Lee belongs to the Peralta District, “ said Dr. Jowell Laguerre, District Chancellor.
“We are so proud of the work Congresswoman Lee is doing for the district in Washington, and here locally in the community. We are very proud to dedicate this facility in her name.”
He also invited employers to come and see our building and meet the prospective employees, students developing the skills that may soon change the world in the sciences.
President of the Board of Trustees PCCD Meredith Brown said, “Fifty years ago President Lyndon Johnson began the fight on the war on poverty. 50 years ago Peralta was born… and education is the corner stone to ending the war on poverty. This building is our greatest accomplishment in recognizing we are champions on the war on poverty.”
“This building is a symbol of recognizing our full potentials,” she said. She then began to read a letter from President Barack Obama. In it, President Obama thanked Congresswoman Lee for her contributions, as he mentioned his goal for every student to be afforded the chance to shape the future. President Obama’s goal is to have every student reach his or her full potential.
Barbara Lee is at home in what she has called “the most vivid, enlighten and diverse community colleges in the country.”
“The innovation and amazing work being done in the Peralta District is recognized in Washington,” she said.
“I want our country to live up to its promise of life and liberty for all. Employers have no excuse for not finding qualified people of color in the technology, science and engineering industries.
“In the future I hope that the Merritt’s Martin Luther King Freedom Center can partnership with the Barbara Lee Science and Allied Health Center. A partnership to connect cutting edge technology and teaching to all students and to work on and resolve issues with a commitment to non-violence.”

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