Honoring Black History Month 2024

February 1, 2024

Dear campus community,

February is Black History Month and we would like to open our message with a quote from ASUC President Sydney Roberts, “As a Black woman, I know this university wasn't designed for me, and there are people in this world who don't want me to succeed. So empowering others who look like me to take on positions of power and mentoring them in a meaningful and impactful way so they may go on to lead is my greatest hope.” One of her goals, in partnership with other Black leaders, Chief of Staff Owen Knapper and Black-Community Endorsed Senator Sky Montgomery, is to increase students' sense of belonging on campus, especially students who have historically felt excluded from higher education. 

Becoming an African American Thriving Institution 

At Berkeley, 4% of undergraduate students and 5.2% of graduate students identify as African American.* While these numbers are lower in proportion compared to the 7% seen pre-Prop 209, we have seen notable improvements through the successful diversity efforts at Berkeley, led by the Office of Undergraduate Admissions (OUA) and through the Undergraduate Student Diversity Project. In partnership with dedicated partners and alumni, OUA develops outreach and yield programming, like Power in Community Day, for Black and African American students and families.

There is also an effort to improve the campus climate through support and resources like the Fannie Lou Hamer Black Resource Center, African American Theme Program, African American Student Development Office, and the 15 registered student organizations, such as the Black Student Union and Black Recruitment and Retention Center. 8.6% of our staff and 4.5% of all faculty identify as African American or Black.* The Black Staff & Faculty Organization is celebrating its 45th anniversary of leadership and advocacy for Black staff, faculty, and students. The African American Thriving Initiatives launched in 2015 to address the underrepresentation of African American students, faculty, and staff at UC Berkeley, and to improve the climate for those who are here now and all who will join our community in the future. A cornerstone of AATI is the African American Initiative Scholarship supports incoming first-year UC Berkeley students who demonstrate leadership potential and a commitment to contributing positively to the Black community at Cal. To further support retention, we will be hiring a new Educational Opportunity Program Academic Counselor dedicated to providing academic and navigational support to the next incoming class of Black students.

Mark Your Calendars 

Nationally, the 2024 theme for the month is “African Americans and the Arts,” inviting the celebration of the African, Caribbean, and the Black American influence in the fields of visual and performing arts, literature, fashion, folklore, language, film, music, architecture, culinary and other forms of cultural expression. There are numerous arts opportunities to participate in, including the following events at Cal Performances this spring: Baldwin and Buckley at Cambridge, Nathalie Joachim, OKAN, Wild Up performing Julius Eastman's Femenine, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Angélique Kidjo

For a Black History tour of campus, Black Lives at Cal offers a self-guided tour available to the public with more in-person dates to be announced. The tour was designed and developed by staff member and alumna Gia White, who will be receiving the Walter A. Robinson Excellence in Service Award at this year’s UCBAC conference. Join BSFO in singing the Black National Anthem (Lift Every Voice and Sing) with Carillon performance by Jeff Davis (Feb. 12) and consider partaking in the special Black History Month events at the Berkeley Dining Commons (Feb.1-29). Cal Athletics will be hosting a panel with ESPN's Ros Gold-Onwude and current WNBA players Layshia Clarendon and Haley Jones (Feb. 4) and Champions of Justice Panel featuring the 1968 Olympic Project for Human Rights, Dr. Harry Edwards, Dr. John Carlos and Dr. Tommy Smith (Feb. 23). The African American Studies Department is hosting a Critical Conversation with Elijah Anderson (Feb. 20) and a Black Panther Party Elders Reception (Feb. 29). A comprehensive roundup of events and gatherings celebrating Black History Month across campus is shared on the Black History Month webpage

This month is a time for us to honor and celebrate the rich cultural heritage and triumphs of Black people and communities that are an important part of our country’s history. It is also a time to acknowledge and mitigate adversities of people throughout the African diaspora. While February serves as a dedicated time to amplify Black voices and experiences, it's crucial to continue the effort to honor, learn, and celebrate Black history beyond a designated month. 

This CalMessage was written in partnership and consultation with Takiyah Jackson, Olufemi Ogundele, Frederick Smith, Diane Lang, Kristian Dawson, and Sandy Richmond. Their caring leadership is what makes UC Berkeley a place where students, staff, and faculty can thrive.

In community,

Dania Matos
Vice Chancellor for Equity & Inclusion

Stephen C. Sutton
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs

Victoria Plaut
Vice Provost for the Faculty

Eugene Whitlock
Associate Vice Chancellor for People & Culture

*Source for data: CalAnswers. Student data is based on self-reported race/ethnicity for domestic students. For employees, there is no citizenship distinction; all employees have their race/ethnicity counted regardless of their citizenship status. Faculty include ladder, Lecturers with Security of Employment (LSOE), and adjuncts/lecturers.

To help create an environment that lives up to our Principles of Community, we will send regular messages to acknowledge various heritage months and holidays. While we won't include every month or holiday, we will make an effort to ensure members of our community feel represented. Additionally, news.berkeley.edu will often post articles highlighting people, programs, and research that align with these heritage months and holidays. 

This message was sent to all staff, faculty, and students.

If you are a manager who supervises UC Berkeley employees without email access, please circulate this information to all.