Volume X, Issue 3 | June 12, 2024

Making Beautiful Plans

In Zulu, “Cebelihle” means “God’s beautiful plan.” And Cebelihle S’Nenhlanhla Hlatshwayo—who left her home country of South Africa to pursue journalism in the U.S., becoming The Corsair’s first Black female editor-in-chief—has lived up to her name.

SMC In Focus



When Cebelihle Hlatshwayo — “Lihle” to her friends — found out she would be the first Black female editor-in-chief of Santa Monica College’s award-winning student media outlet The Corsair, she had her concerns. "It felt like there would be so much pressure," she admits candidly. "I'm a perfectionist at heart and I told them that I didn't feel that I was at a place in my life where I could do amazing things for The Corsair. If I'm going to be the first, I have to be amazing."

That's when then-Corsair adviser Ashanti Blaize-Hopkins offered her a piece of advice: Take every opportunity you're given and do the best you can.

"So that's what I'm doing right now," Lihle adds with a grin. "That's why I was crazy enough to take on the job."

For Lihle, whose name in Zulu means "God's beautiful plan," it was the latest in a series of choices that, with a fair amount of grit and determination, have paid off. Graduating this year with an Associate degree in journalism, the intrepid student made the bold choice of leaving her home country of South Africa in 2018 to pursue her love of journalism in the U.S. After a two-year hiatus resulting from the pandemic, Lihle returned to SMC in 2023 to finish what she had started. That meant taking on several part-time jobs to make ends meet while attending classes full-time and covering stories as part of The Corsair team. But Lihle was determined to make it all happen.

"I'm stubborn," Lihle confesses. "So, if I want something bad enough, I'm going to try my best to make it happen."

That resolve extends to Lihle's passion for quality journalism. During her time at The Corsair, she's won several awards for her stories, including a piece on the first-ever HBCU caravan to visit SMC. Now, as the publication’s editor-in-chief, she's focused on promoting high standards of journalism among The Corsair team, especially as they begin to cover increasingly complex issues, such as the recent campus protests throughout Southern California. It's a passion that keeps her busy, even as she keeps her eye on the real prize.

"I was here for education," she stresses, adding that her professors made that goal worthwhile. "I was so excited to show up for their classes because I was always learning something important from them."

Juggling classes and jobs and her commitment to The Corsair left Lihle with precious little time for anything else. And yet, throughout it all, she found herself connecting with people on campus.

 "Everybody would see me everywhere," she admits with a laugh. "Someone on campus would always stop me and say, ‘Hey! I know you from somewhere.’ And so we'd stop and try to figure out if it was from my job at the library, or maybe The Coffee Spot, or even Admissions. So, I managed to be part of the SMC community in my own little way."

Ultimately, Lihle dreams of launching her own publication back home — an inclusive news space that people can rely on for reliable, accurate information in a range of languages (South Africa has 11). 

Lihle notes that there have been plenty of challenges throughout her college journey, and many more are on the horizon. But she's ready to take those on.

"One thing these last few years have taught me is that any challenge can be faced," she says. "It doesn't mean every challenge will be won. But if you're passionate and you're determined enough, then there's always a way."

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