UC Berkeley News


If Malcolm met Martin . . .
Drama based on a fictional meeting between Malcolm X and Dr. King — followed by student oratory — is among the campus events honoring Black History Month.

| 11 February 2004


In 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr. telegraphed the widow of the slain black nationalist Malcolm X. “While we did not always see eye to eye on methods to solve the race problem,” King wrote, “I always had a deep affection for Malcolm and felt that he had a great ability to put his finger on … the root of the problem.”

The two leaders shared a gift for oratory and a vision of social transformation, though they embodied distinct approaches to effecting change; what they might have said to each other in a sustained dialogue is tempting to imagine. Playwright Jeff Stetson did just that in a prize-winning play, The Meeting, first performed in 1984.

On Saturday, Feb. 21 — the 39th anniversary of Malcolm X’s assassination — the campus chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, an African-American fraternity, will stage The Meeting in honor of Black History Month. The production features Malcolm (played by actor Michael Lange, a Cal alum) and Martin (played by James Brooks) during a fictional meeting in Harlem a few days before Malcolm X’s death.

Immediately following the performance on the Wheeler Auditorium stage, Berkeley undergraduates and graduate students will grapple with similar questions — and exercise their own powers of persuasion — in an oratorical contest sponsored by the fraternity.

Five finalists, selected from a field of applicants, will each deliver a five- to eight-minute speech on the following topic: “In today’s society, what are some of the social issues that our communities are combating and how do we best go about implementing social change in order to address them?” A panel of judges will name first-, second-, and third-place winners, each of whom will take home a scholarship prize.

The two-part evening begins at 5 p.m. Tickets — at $10 general admission, $7 for students — are available at 642-9988, online at www.tickets.com, or by visiting the Cal Performances box office.

Other campus events honoring Black History Month include:

Ralph Bunche and the evolution of human rights
The scholar and diplomat Ralph Bunche (1904-1971) was the first African American to win a Nobel Peace Prize, in honor of his role in international diplomacy, including the Arab-Israeli conflict, through the United Nations.

On Thursday, Feb. 12, Professor Charles Henry — a specialist in black politics, public policy, and human rights and a past board chair of Amnesty International U.S.A . — discusses Bunche’s commitment to global civil society and compares his views with those of writer Michael Ignatieff in his recent book, Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry. The talk is at noon in 652 Barrows Hall.

Other lecturers in African American Studies’ “African American Scholars in the Academy” series include Assistant Professor Leigh Raiford (Thursday, Feb. 19), Assistant Professor G. Ugo Nwokeji (Tuesday, Feb. 24), and Horace Mitchell, vice chancellor, Business & Administrative Services (Thursday, Feb. 26). These events are at the same hour and location as the Bunche lecture.

Daughters of the Dust
This lyrical 1991 feature film, by independent director Julie Dash, tells the story of an African American family on a small island off the coast of South Carolina in the early years of the 20th century.

The action revolves around a picnic honoring members of the family who are preparing to move north. Dash explores conflicts over tradition and religion among the Gullah — an African American community with a distinct dialect and traditions based on West African roots.

The screening is at 7 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 19, in 160 Kroeber Hall. Check with the African American Studies Department, the event sponsor, for other films to be announced.

The gospel experience
International House will host its 12th Annual International Gospel Music Spectacular, a showcase for choirs and soloists from East Bay African American Churches. The show begins at 8 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 26; tickets, at $5 for the public, will be available at the door.

The concert will be preceded by an all-you-can-eat buffet banquet featuring African and African American foods. The dinner is from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The price for the public is $8.50.

The campus community is also invited to join I-House residents, members, and alumni on Sunday, Feb. 15. The group will attend a religious service at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Oakland — where participatory communication amoang preacher, choir, and congregation are standard fare.

A bus departs from I-House at 10 a.m. The cost is $5 for members of the public.

UCTV highlights from the campuses
The University of California’s educational-TV channel, UCTV, is broadcasting a slate of shows on the black experience. Many of these programs — showcasing experts and events from the UC campuses — are also available for viewing “on demand” online, at www.uctv.tv. There you’ll also find airtimes and the cable and satellite channels that carry UCTV.

The month’s lineup includes African peace activist Tecla Wanjala speaking on women as peace builders in Africa; Akasha Gloria Hull on creativity, black feminist roots, and human revolution; the legendary R&B and jazz singer Oscar Brown, Jr.; historian Manning Marable on reparations; a discussion of the independent film Barbershop; and NAACP luminary Elaine Jones on the unfulfilled promise of Brown v. Board of Education, from her appearance at a Boalt Hall conference last year.