Black History Month

The Cal Alumni Association (CAA) is proud to recognize Black History Month, celebrating the contributions African Americans have made to American history in their struggles for freedom and equality, and deepening our understanding of our nation’s history.

In the early 1920s, Black History Month originated from “Negro History Week,” founded by Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans. Since 1976, the month of February has been dedicated to Black History Month, and this month not only re-echoes the contributions of African Americans, but also the struggles of slavery, racism, and oppression.

Black History Month is very special to me because my mother was involved in the Civil Rights Movement. As a child I went with my mother to integrate a public swimming pool where we were denied entry because of our skin color. I remember going with my mother as a child to the March on Washington when Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. I was delighted to soak my feet in the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool that day because they hurt so much from walking. My Mother told me that my memories would be golden memories and to always give back to the community. Today I am a sixty-one-year-old grandmother. I hope my golden memories have instilled in the hearts of my sons, grandson, and the young leaders I mentor the responsibility to lift the lives of, and provide hope for those most in need. During Black History Month I am also reminded of my years at Cal as an undergraduate and law student as I celebrated, in feast and song with my fellow African American students, our heritage.

This collective community effort recognizes that Black History Month is an annual celebration and sharing of achievements and narratives by Black Americans and a time for recognizing African Americans in US history.

Please join us and support our efforts by participating in the events below or learning more about how you can get involved.

Gratefully,

Cloey Hewlett ’76, J.D. ’79
Executive Director, Cal Alumni Association

Moni T. Law ’82
CAA Volunteer

I have felt called to advocate for Black students at Cal. When I saw our pitifully small number on campus and heard about a hostile climate, I was compelled to act. I wanted to find out ways to encourage Black students to consider Cal. I discovered a vibrant and supportive Black community who refer to themselves as “family.” I wanted to share the narrative beyond the negative statistics: there is a positive picture for Black students. I’ve heard that some Black students are now considering Cal after viewing this.

Diversity makes us a stronger community when we incorporate the voices of the “real world.” “Education” obtained from a monoculture student body would have limited vision, and would lack insight or relevance.

Cal spirit means challenging the status quo, doing your best work, and doing whatever we can to make a difference. I “bleed blue and gold” as a Cal Bear for life!

Video produced by Moni Law

Joyce Hicks ’77
Former Director, Cal Alumni Association

As an African American girl growing up in segregated America in the fifties and the sixties, it was sometimes challenging for me to maintain a positive self-image. However, my parents, Arthur and Edith Hicks, taught me to be proud of my African American heritage and inspired me to achieve academically and to become a lawyer. I come from a family of firsts: my mother was the first in her family to receive a college degree and my father, with only a high school education, became a Tuskegee Airman after enlisting in the Army Air Corps to become a mechanic. He aced the mechanic’s test and so impressed his superiors that he was commissioned as a lieutenant and became a pilot instructor.

With my Berkeley Law School (Boalt Hall) education, I became the first lawyer in my family. Black History Month reminds us that African Americans were granted rights after the Civil War through the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, but were unable to exercise those rights because of discrimination. We are reminded of how far African Americans have come today through the hard-fought efforts of the Civil Rights Movement, and we are also reminded of the hope for the future of African Americans in this country.

I serve on the Board of Directors of CAA and of the International House of Berkeley to give back to the University of California for the education I received. I am passionate about the CAA Equity Scholarship because it enhances Cal’s diversity by attracting the highest achieving underrepresented African American, Chicano/Latino, and Native American students. Without diversity, the educational process at Cal would be incomplete.

Nicole Jones ’91
Director, Alumni Association

For more than 20 years, I have been a member of the Cal Alumni Association as a way of expressing my gratitude for my Cal experience. I clearly remember my excitement and pride as a freshman in 1987—one of the largest classes of entering African American students. It was a vibrant time on campus. The celebration of and struggle to ensure diversity, excellence and knowledge inspired me. Upon graduation, I became active in the Black Alumni Club of Southern California and at other local CAA events, participating as a scholarship reviewer, a college night ambassador, and other roles to support future students. In honor of Black History Month, a time to reflect on the achievements of African Americans, I am reminded of the importance of CAA’s Equity Scholarship and The Achievement Award Program, which provide support to African American students and to other students of color. I am proud to be a part of CAA’s legacy.

Destiny Iwuoma ’15
2013-14 ASUC Senator, UC Berkeley

As a student leader and ASUC Senator I learned how important it is for students of color to have a seat at the table in decision-making processes. A lack of diversity at the University of California contributes to students of color being left out in campus decisions that directly affect their well-being on campus; this can be counteracted with direct participation of Black alumni in the lives of Black students.

Receiving mentorship from Black alumni plays an integral role in my success at Cal. Black alumni who are active in the lives of students inspire me to be successful by sharing with me opportunities in which they participated when they were on campus. Being that the Black population on campus is less than 3%, the involvement of Black alumni help to supplement that number by being another resource students have to talk to about campus climate, career opportunities, and things you can only talk to an elder in the Black community about. Black students at Cal need our Black Alumni to invest in our success by being role models and showing us the path to success after Cal.

Brandon Nicholson ’08
M.A. Education, 2008, Ph.D. Education, 2010

Growing up in Oakland, Cal always felt too close, too big, and too little like a “real” campus. It took me traveling 3,000 miles away to pursue my undergraduate education at an Ivy League institution to come back and realize how at home I felt on Berkeley’s dynamic campus. As I completed my doctorate at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Education, I came to see the campus as beautiful, “real” space with a pulse very much tied to a vibrant and diverse surrounding community.

CAA’s Kruttschnitt Aspire Scholarship Program (KASP) offers students and the University a critical opportunity to fulfill the mission of this flagship land grant university by bridging campus and community. The scholarship serves to increase access to the world-class education that has become increasingly difficult for California’s underrepresented populations to access. Further, it serves to enrich the experiences of all students, as it moves the school closer to a demographic composition more representative of our remarkably multicultural state. That is at the heart of the world-class education that Berkeley offers, and that I was privileged to receive.