Black Lives at Cal Initiative

women in cal graduation gowns holding fists in the air

Year: 2023-2024
Research Team Type: Student-led
Organizers: Caleb Dawson, PhD candidate, Critical Studies of Race, Class, and Gender, Berkeley School of Education; Nitoshia Ford, PhD student, Department of African American Studies; Kevin Steward, JD Candidate, Berkeley Law School; Bria Suggs, graduate student, UC Berkeley School of Journalism

Black Lives at Cal (BLAC) is a long-awaited initiative to celebrate, defend, and advance the legacy of Black students, faculty, staff, and alumni at the University of California Berkeley. As a multi-year research endeavor, BLAC investigates the lived experiences, struggles, and accomplishments of Black campus members (BCM) since the university’s founding with balanced attention to individuals, informal collectives, organizations, and campus units. Yet BLAC is more than a research endeavor. BLAC is dedicated to developing novel ways to preserve and publicize these legacies such as a website and interactive visuals (e.g. timeline, maps, exhibits). Our commitment to celebrating, defending, and advancing our legacy of Black life-making follows from and extends the three characteristics of Black Studies put forward by Manning Marable – to be descriptive, corrective, and prescriptive. First, we believe that a detailed description of the legacy of the Black campus community in the face of institutional disdain, disrespect, and neglect lends itself to a celebration. Second, we are all too familiar with what the Black Women Collective critiques as the academy’s impetus to erase, misrepresent, and generally appropriate our legacies of Black (women’s) cultural production in service of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, so BLAC offers a corrective to those majoritarian histories in defense of our interests and self-definition. Finally, we believe that careful engagement with the past and present can prescribe, or inform, how we relate to the future in such a way that cultivates our advancement.