Campus & community, Campus news, Events at Berkeley

Celebrating Black History Month 2023

"It’s a time for us to call attention to and pay tribute to the far-reaching sacrifices and triumphs of Black people and communities," leaders write

the sun shining through the fiat lux logo on sather gate
Berkeley's fourth comprehensive capital campaign, Light the Way: The Campaign for Berkeley, is one of the largest launched by any U.S. university, public or private. (UC Berkeley photo by Keegan Houser)

Vice Chancellor for Equity & Inclusion Dania Matos; Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Stephen Sutton; Takiyah Jackson, director, African American Student Development and co-chair, African American Initiative Steering Committee; Vice Provost for the Faculty Victoria Plaut and Associate Vice Chancellor for People & Culture Eugene Whitlock issued the following message on Wednesday:

February is Black History Month. It’s a time for us to call attention to and pay tribute to the far-reaching sacrifices and triumphs of Black people and communities. It is also an invitation to think about how we uplift the culture, creativity, and leadership of Black life today while holding space for Black dreams and futures. Nationally, the 2023 theme for the month is “Black Resistance,” inviting us to reflect on the roles, responsibilities, and opportunities we all have as individuals to advance racial and social justice across campus.

Fall 2022 marked the return to in-person campus life since the COVID-19 pandemic started. It was an important moment to acknowledge everything we overcame and endured. And, thanks to ongoing leadership and advocacy from key staff and campus groups like the Black Staff & Faculty Organization, the Black community enjoyed multiple opportunities to start the new year connecting and sharing joy across campus. Hosted by the Black Recruitment & Retention Center, the annual Welcome Black Celebration welcomed over 100 community members during the first Black Wednesday gathering in front of the Golden Bear cafe; and hundreds more students, staff, faculty, families, and alumni participated in the second annual roster of Black Homecoming events. The Black Student Union also played a role in welcoming folks back to campus and we know they’re active throughout the year, engaging and energizing the community.

We expanded the African American Theme Program this year, growing from 50 students to nearly 90, and from one seminar course to two. These gains have given students, including those in the fifth cohort of the African American Initiative (AAI) Scholars program, more opportunities to participate in community-building and leadership development support with Black theorists, scholars, and organizers.

Another milestone worth celebrating this month is the sixth anniversary of the Fannie Lou Hamer Black Resource Center. Since its founding, it has become a hub of Black student life and buzzes daily with events, seminars, or study sessions. The center’s leadership program started in 2017 with eight students. Today, it has more than tripled to 30 students–including both graduates and undergraduates. Campus partnerships with teams at Letters & Sciences Advising, the Educational Opportunity Program, Financial Aid & Scholarships, University Health Services, Student Tech Services, and the Black Engineering and Science Student Association provide students with much-needed satellite and support services.

The African American Initiative is making strides to help UC Berkeley genuinely live into its long-standing tradition of excellence in higher education. The African American Student Development Office, AAI leadership, and University Development and Alumni Relations are co-hosting the AAI Celebration on the 21st. The event will honor the first graduating class of AAI Scholars while also welcoming the newest cohort. This is the fifth celebration of its kind and has become an AAI hallmark.

Black Lives at Cal (BLAC) is a multi-year initiative to research, preserve, and publicize the legacy of Black people at UC Berkeley. BLAC is an initiative of the African American Student Development Office, offered in partnership with the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues. They are hosting two events this month, both included in our “Commemorating and Celebrating Black History Month” webpage.

Generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Just Futures initiativethe Black Studies Collaboratory was launched last year. It is a three-year project that aims to bring together artists, activists, and scholars to amplify the interdisciplinary, political, and world-building work of Black Studies. The Collaboratory team has lovingly organized several events for the spring semester; please visit their website for more information.

Speaking of the spring, we are thrilled to share that the Department of African American Studies Ph.D. Program will be celebrating its 25th anniversary with a full-day symposium featuring alumni next month. The full-day symposium is funded in part by the department’s Abolition Democracy Initiative.

As a faculty-led program, Faculty-Link encourages campus-wide connections through events, career mentoring, and support. The program has four components: on-demand, one-on-one advising; forums; conversations; and culturally-specific Identity Gatherings. They are hosted by Faculty Link Core Advisors and senate faculty, adjunct faculty, clinical faculty, and cooperative extension specialists are invited to attend. Details about the next Identity Gathering for Black staff, tentatively scheduled for later this spring, are forthcoming.

If you’re looking for a comprehensive roundup of events and gatherings celebrating Black History Month across campus–including the UC Berkeley vs. UCLA women’s basketball game on the 17th featuring honorary coach Dania Matos!–please visit E&I’s website. It will be updated throughout February, so check often!

This CalMessage was written in consultation with the co-chairs of the AAI Steering Committee, Takiyah Jackson, Brooke Hendrickson, and Olufemi Ogundele. Their insights, advocacy, and expertise play a central role in making our university a more welcoming place for Black students, staff, faculty, alumni, and community members. We are grateful for their leadership.