Service and Activism Theme of UC San Diego’s 2018 Black History Month Celebration

UC San Diego will celebrate Black History Month in February with events that pay tribute to legendary figures in African American history. These individuals helped make our nation a better place through activism and service, including 2018 commencement speaker John Lewis, often called “one of the most courageous persons the civil rights movement ever produced.”

This year’s theme, “War and Peace: The Complexity of History, Service and Activism within the Black Diaspora,” will be reflected in events such as film screenings, educational seminars and the 16th Annual Black History Scholarship Brunch Celebration. Decorated Army Commander and motivational speaker Gregory Gadson will serve as keynote speaker at the Feb. 24 fundraising event. The veteran, who has served in every major conflict of the last two decades, will discuss overcoming obstacles—Gadson’s biggest challenge happened in Iraq in 2007 when an IED attack led to both of his legs being amputated above the knees. Learn more about purchasing tickets here.

“UC San Diego’s Black History Month commemoration is an important observance that recognizes and celebrates the contributions of African Americans throughout U.S. history,” said Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “We are proud to host a variety of events that celebrate the achievements of heroic figures, such as abolitionist Sojourner Truth, the servicemen in the Tuskegee Airmen and John Lewis, who we are honored to have as our commencement speaker this June.”

Lewis will address graduating students at the invitation-only June 16 All Campus Commencement. UC San Diego, recognized as one of the top ten public universities in the U.S., is committed to public service and inclusive excellence—two areas that align with the work of Lewis. Inspired by the activism surrounding the Montgomery bus boycott and the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as a young boy he made a decision to become a part of the civil rights movement. A devoted advocate of the philosophy of nonviolence, Lewis has remained at the vanguard of progressive social movements and the human rights struggle in the United States. He has served as U.S. Representative of Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District since 1986.

Event highlights of UC San Diego’s Black History Month Celebration, many of which are free and open to the public, include the following. All event details can be found at

  • Feb. 1, 4 to 5:30 p.m., “I Got Nothing Against No Viet Cong”: Muhammad Ali and Social Activism Lecture: This lecture by Wallace Bullock of the Bergamos Theatre covers the speeches, discourses and film clips of champion boxer Muhammad Ali concerning war, resistance and politics. Social Science Building, #101, African and African-American Studies Research Center.
  • Feb. 1, 5 to 6:30 p.m., Jazz in Paris: How African Americans Shaped and Influenced the Paris Jazz Scene: Cecil Lytle, the world-renowned pianist and former provost of Marshall College, will explore the interconnections among Americans, Jazz, the Black Diaspora and the Paris Jazz scene. Black Resource Center.
  • Feb. 5, 6 to 7 p.m., An Evening with Hilton Als, Pulitzer Prize Winning Essayist and Author, in discussion with Gentry Patrick, UC San Diego professor of neurobiology: Hilton Als is an American writer and theater critic. He is an associate professor of writing at Columbia University and a staff writer and theater critic for The New Yorker magazine. Weiss Theater. To register, click here.
  • Feb. 21, 5 to 7:30 p.m., Marshall Speaker Series Presents James Sobieski: Civil Rights attorney and activist James Sobieski discusses his participation in Mississippi during the Freedom Summer Effort. Atkinson Auditorium at Thurgood Marshall College.
  • Feb. 22, 7 p.m., Film Screening of “Raisin in the Sun”: Based on the Langston Hughes play, this 1961 film tells of a black family’s experiences in the Washington Park Subdivision of Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood. Price Center Theater.
  • Feb. 24, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., 16th Annual UC San Diego Black History Month Scholarship Brunch: The event attracts hundreds of campus and community members each year to support undergraduate scholarships. The event will include a Southern-style soul food brunch, entertainment by Grammy-winning trumpeter Curtis Taylor and a silent auction. Gregory Gadson, the keynote speaker, graduated from West Point in 1989 and holds master’s degrees in Information Systems and Policy Management from Webster and Georgetown University. Gadson also occasionally acts and appeared in the 2012 film, “Battleship.” All proceeds from the silent auction go toward student scholarships. KPBS is serving as the media partner for the event. Location: Price Center West Ballroom. Tickets to the brunch may be purchased online.For more information, call (858) 822-5248 or email

This article was originally published for This Week @ UC San Diego.