‘Be the Change’: Nazune Menka on creating the course, Decolonizing UC Berkeley

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a portrait of a person smiling with text on her left that reads "Be the Change, Nazune Menka"

Berkeley Law lecturer Nazune Menka designed and taught an American Cultures undergraduate course called Decolonizing UC Berkeley in fall 2021. She’s teaching the course again this semester. (Photo by Darius Riley; UC Berkeley design by Neil Freese)

In this episode of Be the Change, host Savala Nolan, director of Berkeley Law’s Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice, interviews Nazune Menka.

Menka is a lecturer at Berkeley Law and a supervising attorney for the campus’s Environmental Law Clinic. She is Denaakk’e from Alaska and Lumbee from North Carolina. In fall 2021, Menka designed and taught a new undergraduate course in the Department of Legal Studies called Decolonizing UC Berkeley and she taught Indigenous Peoples, Law and the United States at the law school in spring 2022.

writing that reads "Berkeley Changemaker"

Berkeley News is highlighting innovators on campus that bring societal benefit through their work and research.

During their conversation, they talk about how to bring a decolonial lens to education, and about the joys and challenges of being a trailblazer who is pushing against the inherited wisdom and mythology surrounding UC Berkeley — “a place we love deeply and, therefore, as James Baldwin said, claim the right to criticize and to call to higher levels of intellectual and moral honesty,” Nolan says.

“This can be a unique space, right?” Menka says. “The university — it is a place of power. I know that. It’s important that we are able to understand that if you have a voice, if you are in the room, you should use it.”

They also get into how instinct can be a particularly powerful gift when you’re part of a subordinated community, and storytelling as a portal to individual and communal healing.

Season two of Be the Change is a collaboration between Berkeley Law and Berkeley News. In the series, Nolan interviews three changemakers who have started something that wasn’t there before, and that makes the world a better place. New episodes will come out every week on Wednesday as a special series on the Berkeley Voices podcast.

See the spring 2023 syllabus for Decolonizing UC Berkeley.

See all Be the Change episodes.


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