The annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Convocation invites UCSC students and faculty and Santa Cruz community members to celebrate the achievements of Martin Luther King Jr.
“It’s an event where not only students are involved, but the entire Santa Cruz community,” said UCSC’s Cultural Arts and Diversity Resource Center administrative assistant Crystelle Reola. “It’s a space where you get re-inspired to live your life to the fullest and understand why being culturally informed is important.”
Held in the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium on Feb. 6, the event will feature guest speaker Dr. Freeman Hrabowski III, named one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” by TIME in 2012, and also includes performances by Tammi Brown and UCSC’s own African American Theater Arts Troupe (AATAT).
Dr. Freeman Hrabowski III serves as the president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He co-authored two books, “Beating the Odds: Raising Academically Successful African American Males” and “Overcoming the Odds: Raising Academically Successful African American Young Women” and was included in Spike Lee’s documentary “4 Little Girls.” His speech will emphasize his beliefs on the Civil Rights movement, of which he has first-hand experience, having spent time in jail for participating in a civil rights protest in Birmingham, Ala.
The convocation will also name the winner of the Tony Hill Memorial Award, which is given to an individual working to make positive changes by finding solutions to social problems based on the needs of the community. Last year’s honoree, Stephen Nelson, was recognized for his involvement in the Homeless Services Center, located near downtown Santa Cruz.
At the convocation, AATAT will read poetry, sing and perform excerpts from their upcoming production “To Be Young, Gifted and Black: A Portrait of Lorraine Hansberry In Her Own Words.”
“[This year] is going to be more creative and personal to the actors and actresses in the show,” said AATAT president Precious Wingo. “Not only do we get to see the story of the play, but the stories of the people involved in the play as well.”
Started in 1991, AATAT promotes the academic and artistic growth of African-American students.
“MLK fought for not only the rights of African-Americans, but at a basic level, the visibility of African-Americans,” Wingo said. “AATAT brings to the front lines the visibility of African-Americans on this campus.”
Dreiyel Robinson, an outreach coordinator for AATAT, said being represented on the campus is important in regards to the school’s demographics. According to the UC Office of the President profile of UCSC, African-Americans make up only 2 percent of the school’s total undergraduate population.
“AATAT is an important part of this campus and MLK did a lot for us, especially as African-American students,” Robinson said. “AATAT is a huge part of being able to express ourselves and share our stories.”
The convocation provides an opportunity to share AATAT’s achievements and remind the community what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for — the people’s rights and voices.
“When we are able to be in a space where we can talk with an open mind and heart and receive and give to one another — it’s beautiful,” said UCSC’s Cultural Arts and Diversity Resource Center administrative assistant Crystelle Reola. “Every time I walk out of the convocation, I’m motivated to be in Santa Cruz and portray a lifestyle hopefully similar to MLK.”