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Bakersfield College celebrates Black History Month

Honoring an architect who made history
Posted at 6:37 PM, Feb 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-22 23:26:59-05

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Dr. James Chaffers an architect and former college professor has a long list of accomplishments. In 1971, he made history as the nation's first recipient of a Doctorate of Architecture Degree, from the University of Michigan.

As a keynote speaker on Friday at the Bakersfield College in honor of Black History Month, Dr. Chaffers shared his journey with students to "remind them of the value and power of dreams."

"A dream is not a wish. You can wish somebody this or that. But dreams you have to make them happen. You can't dream for someone else," said Dr. Chaffers.

In April 1998, Dr. Chaffers was asked to serve as Senior Design Juror for the "living memorial" in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Washington, D.C. In June 2011, the statue was unveiled through an official presidential ceremony.

"How many times does that happen in life, you actually see and hear from the designer, and learn how it all came together," said Steve Watkin, the Director of Outreach and School Relations at Bakersfield College.

"For those young people who want to be an architect or an engineer, you never know where your education or skill set will take. As he (Dr. Chaffers) said today, he had no idea he would get a phone call in the middle of the night to help plan and design the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. It's an opportunity to dream and that is was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would want us to do, to keep dreaming," Watkin said.

Dr. Chaffers said he was thankful for this opportunity from Bakersfield College and Harlem and Beyond of Bakersfield, to help inspire the next generation.

"Young people need to have role models, and I believe it starts with the families, so you need to have strong families and then have strong communities. Even though we celebrate Black History Month in February in reality, it's all year long," Watkin said.

For a full list of additional events help at Bakersfield College in honor of Black History Month, visit their website.