By Randi Cross, Arts Editor
February 26, 2023
In honor of Black History Month, the Umoja-UBAKA Student Success Community hosted the African American History & Human Liberation Presentation & Dinner on Feb. 8, 2023 at Laney College.
Carter G. Woodson, founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, initiated the first celebration of Black History Week in 1926 during the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. This tradition led to the eventual adoption of Black History Month for the entirety of February in 1976.
A handout titled Timeline of Selected Moments in African American History: 1619 – 2023 was provided to all in attendance, and members of the audience were encouraged to partner up to discuss its content.
Following these discussions, Umoja-UBAKA screened a portion of the PBS documentary “A Nation of Law? 1968–1971: Eyes on the Prize—America’s Civil Rights Movement 1954–1985”. The documentary opens with a recounting of the FBI surveillance of the Black Panther Party in 1969 and how the surveillance began to discredit the Black Panthers. FBI Records on the Black Panther Party can be found in FBI Records: The Vault.
The documentary also covered the controversy surrounding the death of Fred Hampton, chair of the Black Panthers Chicago chapter, and how journalist Brian Boyer played a major part in the investigation. The 14-part documentary is accessible to students through the Laney library database in the “films on demand” section.
Following the viewing, the floor was opened for discussion during the last 30-minutes of the event.
Kimberly King, Umoja-UBAKA Faculty Coordinator, commented on the 1971 relocation of Merritt College to the Oakland Hills from its original location in downtown Oakland.
“I don’t think that it’s an accident Merritt College was moved to the hills,” she said.
King went on to explain that she believes the city’s efforts to move Merritt were motivated by the desire to put a stop to the growing presence of the Black Panther Party on the downtown campus. Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale co-founded the Black Panther Party while attending Merritt College in 1966.
Laney College President Rudy Besikof stopped by during the presentation with encouraging words for all in attendance.
“You are all leaders on this campus,” Besikof said.