Not long after immigrating to the U.S. from Nigeria, Christine Chinwuba (pictured above) suffered from an identity crisis.

The Pinole Valley High senior struggled over whether to identify as “black or Nigerian.” She felt “too black for the African kids, and too African for the black kids.”

“I always felt like an outsider,” she said.

But the wise young woman — recently named the first prize winner of the 2017 Chevron Richmond Dr. William F. King Scholarship program — soon discovered how to find peace in her identity.

She made it a point to study both her African history, and also her African American history. She learned that while she is “Nigerian from the Ibo Tribe,” her arrival in the U.S. meant she would be “subject to the same prejudices as [America’s] black community,” which had endured slavery.

It became clear to Chinwuba that she is both Nigerian and black — and that, most importantly, education helped to chip away at any ignorance-based generalizations that divide people. Like when people would ask her if she had lived in an African jungle.

“We are often uninformed from both sides,” she said, but added, “Differences are part of the human condition.”

Chinwuba recited those words during her presentation Wednesday at the 18th Annual Black History Awareness Celebration held at the Richmond Refinery.

She was one of four bright young students from the West Contra Costa Unified School District (pictured below) to earn Dr. William F. King Scholarships following a competitive application process. Her scholarship was for $3,000.

Mark Bordas of De Anza High earned the second place scholarship of $2,000; Auriel Hill-Banks of De Anza High earned third place ($1,750); and Elexis Webster of Kennedy High fourth place ($1,250).

Since 2004, the Chevron Richmond Black Employee Network, a company-funded, employee-run group that works to promote diversity education and inclusion at the Refinery, has given more than 40 scholarships to deserving WCCUSD students.

Scholarship applicants endure a competitive process where they are judged based upon demonstrated leadership ability, community involvement and a 500-750 word essay, among other factors, said Lucia Watson, a member of the scholarship committee.

On both Tuesday and Wednesday this week, the Black Employee Network held its annual Black History Awareness Celebration events at the Refinery. Chevron employees and community leaders enjoyed Southern cuisine for lunch on both days while receiving education in the form of literature and from guest speakers including Debra Watkins, the founder and president of California Alliance of African American Educators.

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