Starting in January, UC Santa Cruz adorned campus with celebratory banners of notable alumni.
The alumni site deems 2018 “the year of the alumni, […] a time to savor, celebrate, and promote the legacy of proud Banana Slugs who have made their mark as they’ve gone on to successful careers.”
For one reason or another, the campaign left out some of the most notable people to have attended this university. The campaign omits organizers and radical thinkers who are integral to the advancement of society. In their place is a pool of predominantly white alumni.
Five people cannot be the sole representation of the success of students of color on this campus. All of the work achieved and being done by former slugs is important and should be celebrated. The university took care of validating the success of white students on this campus with 8 out of its 13 featured alumni. In order to reinforce the success of people of color on this campus, here is a proposed addendum to the year of the alumni campaign.
Huey P. Newton
Black Panther Party co-founder Huey P. Newton is a UCSC alumnus. His work with the party was monumental for public school systems for students of color.
An Oakes affiliate, Newton attended UCSC for both undergraduate and graduate education, completing his bachelor’s degree in 1974 and his doctorate in history of consciousness in 1980.
When he graduated from Oakland Technical High School in 1959 he was largely illiterate due to being so disinterested in his courses.
Newton co-founded the Black Panther Party with Bobby Seale in 1966. His senior dissertation is titled ‘War Against the Panthers: A Study of Repression in America’ and analyzes key developmental moments in the party’s history.
Newton was arrested in Santa Cruz County in 1978 and charged with attempted murder, but later acquitted due to insufficient evidence. Despite writing his doctoral thesis while in jail, he wasn’t able to walk the stage as he was imprisoned at the time of commencement.
Gloria Jean Watkins has written around 30 books under her famous pen name bell hooks. Her pen name comes from her great grandmother Bell Blair Hooks. It is written in all lowercase to place emphasis on the ideas instead of the name. In her work, hooks delves into complex analysis of feminism, race and gender.
Educated in segregated school systems in Kentucky, hooks received a doctorate in literature from UCSC in 1983. In her professional career, she held positions teaching African-American studies at Yale University, and ethnic studies at University of Southern California among others.
hook’s book “Ain’t I a Woman?”, which derives its name from Black abolitionist Sojourner Truth, examines the damaging effects racism and sexism have on the Black female body. It analyzes systemic nuances which continuously put Black women at the bottom of the social hierarchy.
Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa
Awarded her doctorate degree posthumously, queer Chicana poet Gloria Anzaldúa was a graduate literature student at UCSC. The power of her words stemmed from lived experience of erasure and the systemic subjugation of her identities.
Anzaldúa was born in South Texas to sixth-generation Mexican American rancher farmers. She earned her undergraduate degree from University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in English. Upon moving to California in 1977, she made money by writing and lecturing on creative writing at different institutions including UCSC.
Her writings are well known for bringing around the third wave of feminism. “This Bridge Called my Back” which Anzaldúa co-edited is the first popularized feminist text to focus solely on the experiences of women of color.
One of the leaders of the international women’s march on Washington and member of the Women’s March Board, Carmen Perez, is a UCSC alumna from Oakes College.
Perez began organizing when she was 17 years old following a car accident that took the life of her older sister. When Perez’s father was asked if the family would want to press charges against the driver he responded, “I would never want to take another mother’s child away.” These words moved Perez immensely.
This moment began Perez’s action. Growing up in a neighborhood known for gang involvement, Perez studied psychology at UCSC to find out why she didn’t become a statistic and why people become statistics at all. She now works in New York City for The Gathering For Justice, an organization that works to end child incarceration and racially biased mass incarceration.
Tiffany Dena Loftin
Tiffany Dena Loftin went from being Student Union Assembly president to working closely with former U.S. President Barack Obama.
Studying politics and being involved in student government while at UCSC, her commitment to student activism helped strengthen resources available to Black students on campus. She brought this drive to her professional life as well. She currently works as the director of the national NAACP Youth and College Division.
As a Black woman from Los Angeles, Loftin said she did not feel like she had to be a Black woman until she got to UCSC. With the Black population on campus floating below 2 percent for years, the shock of coming from predominantly Black neighborhoods to being the only Black person in a classroom is an extreme shock for a lot of ABC-identified students.
Her advocacy went viral. In March, at the March for Our Lives, she was recorded calling for the inclusivity of the Black community in the rampant discussion on gun violence.
Here are more notable Alumni of Color who attended UCSC:
Niketa Calame-Harris African-American Actress who voiced “Young Nala” in the famous Disney Movie “The Lion King”.
Philip Kan Gotanda An Asian American playwright who focuses his work on the unique experiences of Asian Americans.
John Rickford A famous linguist who studies and lectures on the African American dialect, also known as ebonics, at Stanford.
Maya Rudolph An American comedian and actress known for starring in Bridesmaids and Saturday Night Live.
Héctor Tobar A journalist whose work examines the relationship between Latin America and the United States