Ayo Banjo, a community activist and UCSC researcher, was taking a break on a nearby beach when he started thinking about the Black population in Santa Cruz County.
In this county, Banjo estimates that African-Americans make up roughly 1 percent of the population.
He began by contacting the Santa Cruz County Black Health Matters Project, a community-based initiative whose goal is to promote the health, equality, and general quality of life of Black inhabitants in Santa Cruz County, California.
Cat Willis, the founder and director of Black Health Matters, says she was already aware of Banjo's political involvement at UCSC and with the Santa Cruz County Black Coalition for Justice & Racial Equity when he was hired in January.
After receiving a grant from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation's Black Freedom Fund, Black Health Matters volunteered to utilize part of the monies to bring in the resources and leverage necessary for the Cookout.
According to Banjo, "We absolutely want kids to feel protected."
Banjo's desire to bring his UCSC family and members of Santa Cruz's Black community together was a big motivation for organizing the BBQ, according to him.
The feeling of belonging, the sense that they have a stake and a part to play in Santa Cruz are important to me.
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