Past Speakers, 2000-2012

  • Step Afrika! dancers
    2012. Step Afrika! is the first professional company in the world dedicated to the tradition of stepping. In stepping, the body is used as an instrument to create intricate rhythms and sounds through a combination of footsteps, claps and spoken word. The tradition grew out of the song and dance rituals practiced by historically African American fraternities and sororities in the early 1900s. Stepping comes from a long and rich tradition in African-based communities that use movement, words and sounds to communicate allegiance to a group. The company is critically-acclaimed for its efforts to promote an understanding of and appreciation for stepping and the dance tradition's use as an educational tool for young people worldwide. See
  • Dr. Bertice Berry, 2011
    2011. Dr. Bertice Berry is an award-winning entertainer, lecturer and comedian. Growing up in Wilmington, Delaware, the sixth of seven children, Bertice was told by a high-school teacher that she was "not college material." She went on to graduate magna cum laude from Jacksonville University in Florida, and eventually earned a Ph. D. in Sociology from Kent State University, all by the age of 26.
  • Sapphire
    2010. Campus Theme: "I Am, Was And Always Will Be A Catalyst For Change." Sapphire (born Ramona Lofton, August 4, 1950 in Fort Ord, California) is an American author and performance poet. She took the name Sapphire because of its association at one time in African-American culture with the image of a "belligerent black woman" and because she could picture the name on a book cover more than her birth name. She held various jobs before starting her writing career, working as an exotic dancer, a performance artist, a social worker, and a teacher of reading and writing.
  • Larry Wilmore
    2009. Campus Theme: "A Dreamer But Not the Only One." Larry Wilmore grew up in suburban Los Angeles, the child of a Catholic family. He has a younger brother, Marc Wilmore, who is also a television writer, actor and producer. In 2006, Wilmore began appearing regularly on The Daily Show, where he is billed as the "Senior Black Correspondent" or a derivative form of the title, such as the "Senior Executive Commander-in-Chief Who Happens To Be Black Correspondent" (following the election of Barack Obama).His work on the show frequently centers on humorous observations of the black experience in American society. In January 2009, Hyperion published Wilmore's I'd Rather We Got Casinos: And Other Black Thoughts, a political humor book described by Booklist as "a faux collection of articles, essays, radio transcripts, and letters exploring the more ludicrous angles on race." Wilmore originated the titular phrase in a January 2007 Daily Show appearance.
  • Valarie Kaur
    2008. Campus Theme: "Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere." Valerie Kaur is a third-generation Sikh-American. She wanted to teach others that the people she considered brothers and uncles were not scary just because they looked different. After the Sept. 11 attacks -- appearance sometimes affected how you were treated in this country. When a Sikh man, wearing a turban, was gunned down in Arizona, it changed college student, Valarie Kaur's life. She ended up making a film about what it means to be American.
  • Helen Zia
    2007. Campus Theme: "Building the Beloved Community." Helen Zia was born in New Jersey to first generation immigrants from Shanghai. She entered Princeton University in the early 1970s and was a member of its first graduating class of women. As a student, Zia was among the founders of the Asian American Students Association. She was also a vocal anti-war activist, voicing her Opposition to U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, and a firm believer in feminism. She entered medical school in 1974, but quit in 1976. She moved to Detroit, Michigan. She went to work as a construction laborer, an autoworker and a community organizer, after which she discovered her life’s work as a journalist and writer.
  • Keith Beauchamp, Emmitt Till, The Untold Story
    2006. Campus Theme: "Time to Break the Silence." Keith Beauchamp is a filmmaker based in Brooklyn who investigated the murder of Emmett Till, fifty years after Till's death in 1955, Beauchamp's research eventually led him to create the documentary film The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till, and the reopening of the case by the United States Department of Justice in May 2004. Beauchamp first encountered the Emmett Till story at age ten while looking through an issue of Jet magazine. In 1996 he started his own research, and found microfilm of articles which listed witness who had not been questioned by police, and references to uncharged participants in the murder. Through the help of other researchers, Beauchamp contacted living witnesses, but he says that it was some years before they trusted him enough to speak on camera. Researching and creating the film took nine years.
  • Juan Cole
    2005. Campus Theme: "…but we have not learned the simple Art of Living Together…" Juan R. I. Cole, Professor of Modern Middle East and South Asian History at the History Department of the University of Michigan, entitled his presentation "How Democratic is American Iraq". He has written extensively about modern Islamic movements in Egypt, the Persian Gulf, and South Asia. He has given numerous media and press interviews on the War on Terrorism since September 11, 2001, as well as concerning the Iraq War in 2003.
  • Christopher Edley, Jr.
    2004. Campus Theme: "Still Separate? Still Unequal. Brown v. Board of Education 50 years later". Christopher Edley Jr. combines academic expertise in public policy and civil rights law with an impressive record of hands-on public policy work in the White House, on Capitol Hill and on the campaign trail. A veteran of two tours of White House service and twice that many presidential campaigns, Edley has played a central role in the high-stakes world of national politics for nearly 30 years. As special counsel to President Clinton, he led the White House review of affirmative action programs and helped develop Clinton's "Mend it, don't end it" position on affirmative action; at the Office of Management and Budget he oversaw one-quarter of the federal budget. In the Carter administration he served as assistant director of the White House domestic policy staff, where his responsibilities included welfare reform, social security and a variety of anti-poverty measures.
  • bell hooks
    2003. Campus Theme: "We must be the change we wish to see in the world". Gloria Jean Watkins, who writes under the name bell hooks (cited in lowercase), has written prolifically about many social issues. Her work takes an approach that is at once analytical yet also impassioned and personal. She explores the ways that African-American culture, womanhood, feminism, the civil rights movement, and critical theory both clash and complement each other, in the world at large and in her personal life. She has challenged the feminist movement with being largely racist, and has frequently voiced her concern over the negative images of blacks perpetuated in the popular media.
  • Sherman Alexie
    2002. Campus Theme: "Honoring, Challenging and Living." Drawing heavily upon his experiences as a native Spokane/Coeur d'Alene tribal member who grew up and still lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, Washington, writer, performer, and filmmaker Sherman Alexie has garnered high praise for his poems and short stories of contemporary Native American reservation life, among them The Business of Fancydancing, a poetry collection Alexie has since adapted into a film. Alexie, who performs many of his poems at poetry slams, festivals, and other venues, has received praise for the energy and emotion he brings to his work. Alexie broke further barriers when he helped create the first all-Indian movie. Smoke Signals, for which he wrote the screenplay based on his short stories, was produced, directed, and acted by Native American talent. He titled his presentation "Killing Indians: Myths, Lies and Exaggerations".
  • Caarmen Tafolla
    2001. Campus Theme: "Renewing the". Carmen Tafolla's "most characteristic and powerful poems," according to Yolanda Broyles Gonzalez in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, "are those in which she brings barrio personalities to life using their own voices.... Tafolla shows a rare sensitivity toward the registers of barrio speech of persons from various age groups and walks of life." In one of her plays, Tafolla herself plays many parts: a first-grader, an old lady, a soldier, a janitor, and others. She also holds a Ph.D. in bilingual education from the University of Texas, Austin, which she received in 1982.
  • Earl Ofari Hutchinson
    2000. Campus Theme: "MLK2K: Shattering Barriers and Transcending Borders." Earl Ofari Hutchinson is a noted author of nine books about the African American experience in America. His numerous published articles appear in newspapers and magazines across the country as well as some of the most popular web sites on the Internet. He is a radio host and TV commentator. He has received several awards for his writings. Career: Editorial consultant for Monthly Review Publishers, 1970-71; Mafundi Institute, Los Angeles, CA, instructor in journalism, beginning 1972; former public affairs director for radio station KPFK; lecturer at colleges and universities. He is a member of board the of directors of the Paul Robeson Community Center. He spoke on "The Eternal Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr."
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Last modified: 09/22/2014