The AC curriculum has been the fulcrum of critical diversity work on this campus for a long time. Inspired by the struggles and dreams of the Third World Liberation Front fifty years ago this year, and created in the late 1980s, the energy for the AC requirement was formed not on campus but in our surrounding communities. In 1984 in San Francisco and Oakland, longshore workers were leading the Bay Area fight against South African apartheid. For decades the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) had stood against apartheid, refusing to touch South African cargo. Although the national media were not covering the unprecedented boycotts at the beginning, hundreds of local residents and UC Berkeley students gathered to support the Longshore members. The students were receiving an education that would literally change the shape of the University of California. Our Berkeley students were inspired to pressure the UC Regents to divest its $3 billion endowment from South African companies supporting apartheid. The student activism escalated on campus, becoming the largest and most sustained period of activism since Vietnam.
And their actions were successful. UC divested from South African companies. The intellectual and political muscles that the students developed, didn’t waste away. They next turned their attention to the UC Berkeley campus and its curriculum. Pedro Noguera, then president of the UC Berkeley graduate assembly, and now a distinguished professor of Education at UCLA, famously stated that “We were feeling our oats, and thought now, with this success behind us, we could desegregate the campus, desegregate the curriculum.” And so, the fight for the AC curriculum began.
What do we learn from this history? Well many things, but centrally, that when we recognize that our university is part of larger communities, that we learn from our communities, that our faculty can build the most inspiring learning environments and that our students are powerful. Powerful as students when at UC Berkeley and powerful in life and the streets, as they push the nation to realize racial justice.
These are facets of the past that are so very present in the prize recipients' work that we are recognizing today. This year, perhaps more than any year was the most difficult selection process. Perhaps it’s the times we sit in, but all of the submissions demonstrated the immense investment that both faculty and students have in the continuing work of the AC curriculum and the roots that bore it.
We celebrate this year's recipients not in the Morrison Reading Room of Doe Library as we normally do, but in our homes and with our families and communities. Thank you to all of the recipients for providing rich, provocative, and thoughtful comments for us all to enjoy and reflect on. Please join the AC Center in celebrating our faculty and students, whose work gives us pause for hope, joy, and visions of our collective world.