San José State Celebrates Black History Month

Every year, San José State honors Black History Month by offering events, speaker series, workshops and lectures that recognize Black and African-American heritage, cultures and contributions to society. This year’s events will take place online due to the COVID-19 pandemic and are hosted by a number of different departments across campus. While these events are held in February, the university remains committed to fostering a culture of anti-racism and addressing systemic racism on and off campus throughout the year. Events this spring include, but are not limited to:

Black History Month Open Mic

Thursday, February 4, 6 p.m.

Join The Black Leadership Opportunity Centre, Student Union, Inc. and Mosaic for the February Open Mic night in honor of Black History Month. For more information, check out Mosaic’s YouTube video stream or contact the center at

Center for Literary Arts Presents: Kiese Laymon


The Center for Literary Arts presents Kiese Laymon in conversation with Keenan Norris.

Thursday, February 4, 7 p.m.

The Center for Literary Arts is pleased to present Kiese Laymon, the best-selling author of Heavy: An American Memoir, in a reading and conversation with San José State Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature Keenan Norris.

SCARRED JUSTICE: The Orangeburg Massacre 1968

Poster of the three protestors who were killed.

Monday, February 8, noon

Fifty-three years ago, on the campus of South Carolina State University, the South Carolina Highway Patrol opened fire on a group of civil rights protestors, killing three and wounding 28. Join the Department of African American Studies and the Africana, Asian American, Chicano, and Native American Studies Center of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library for a special film screening of Scarred Justice: The Orangeburg Massacre 1968 with discussion to follow.

SJSU Reads: Confession of Copeland Cane with Keenan Norris

SJSU Reads.

Tuesday, February 9, noon

San José State Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature Keenan Norris will read an excerpt from his forthcoming novel, The Confession of Copeland Cane. Set in East Oakland, California, The Confession of Copeland Cane introduces us to a prescient and startlingly contemporary voice, one that exposes the true dangers of coming of age in America: miseducation, over-medication, radiation and incarceration.

Norris’ 2013 novel, Brother and the Dancer, won the James D. Houston Award. He has also published the chapbook By the Lemon Tree and served as editor for the critical volume Street Lit: Representing the Urban Landscape. The Confession of Copeland Cane will be published in June 2021.

Teach-In Panel Discussion: Dr. Angela Davis and the Indispensability of Black Feminism and Socialism in 2021

Barbara Ransby, Neferti X.M Tadiar and Bettina Aptheker.

Tuesday, February 9, 3 – 5 p.m.

This second event of the Human Rights Institute Lecture Series will feature a virtual teach-in panel discussion of Black feminism and socialism by internationally-known scholars Barbara Ransby; Neferti X.M. Tadiar; and Bettina Aptheker, ’76 MA Mass Communications. Each guest will present a brief but provocative talk before engaging directly with questions from the viewing audience.

All-African People’s Revolution Party Film and Dialogue Series

All-African People's Revolution Party.

Tuesdays, February 9, 16, 23, and March 3

Co-sponsored by the Africana, Asian American, Chicano, and Native American (AAACNA) Studies Center, celebrate Black History Month by joining the All-African People’s Revolution Party Film and Dialogue Series, featuring short films, speeches, guest presenters, and more covering a variety of contemporary issues with discussion to follow.

  • Feb. 9: Africom and Militarism
  • Feb. 16: #ENDSARS and Police Violence in Africa
  • Feb. 23: Power of Words
  • Mar. 2: Cuba and Sanctions

Spartan Speaker Series: Baratunde Thurston on How to Deconstruct Racism and Laugh at the Same Time

Wednesday, February 10, 7 p.m.

Baratunde Thurston is an Emmy-nominated host who has worked for The Onion, produced for The Daily Show, advised the Obama White House, and cleaned bathrooms to pay for his Harvard education. He’s the executive producer and host of We’re Having A Moment, a limited-run podcast series that captures this defining moment of pandemic, policing, and race in the U.S. He’s also the creator and host of Live On Lockdown, has hosted the iHeartMedia podcast Spit, wrote the New York Times bestseller How To Be Black, and serves on the boards of BUILD and the Brooklyn Public Library.

Shaun Leonardo: ConSortiUm

Thursday, February 11, 5:30 p.m.

Shaun Leonardo’s multidisciplinary work negotiates societal expectations of manhood, namely definitions surrounding black and brown masculinities, along with its notions of achievement, collective identity, and experience of failure. His performance practice, anchored by his work in Assembly—a diversion program for court-involved youth at the Brooklyn-based, nonprofit Recess—is participatory and invested in a process of embodiment.

ConSortiUm is a ground-breaking collaborative group that generates opportunities to include artists, curators, students, faculty, staff, and other allies from across the CSU campuses in visual arts-based dialogue. The CSU system represents the largest public four-year college system in the country, with more than 480,000 students enrolled at 23 campuses. Formed in Spring 2020 in response to the distance learning implemented by the CSU during the Covid-19 pandemic, ConSortiUm members are dedicated to responding to current societal issues and the pressing demand for an end to systemic and overt racism in California and beyond.

ISSSSC Sport Conversations for Change presents: We are Family – Sport, Politics, Culture and the Black Family

Thursday, February 11, noon

Over the past year, race, racism, and anti-Black racism has been at the forefront of national and international conversations and centered Black people and DEI initiatives in the management and operations of businesses and organizations. This event, hosted by the Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change, will examine these issues and the experiences of Black athletes, coaches, sport professionals and their families. ISSSSC will celebrate Black History Month 2021 with scholars and leaders to discuss the significance of Black people in sporting spaces, examine the role Black athletes and coaches have played in political conversations, identify the influence and commodification of Black sport figures in cultural spaces, and explain how these experiences are affecting the representation, identity and diversity of the Black family.


  • Travis Boyce, chair and associate professor of African American Studies, SJSU
  • Letisha Engracia Cardoso Brown, assistant professor of sociology, Virginia Tech
  • Billy Hawkins, interim department chair and professor of health and human performance, University of Houston

Human Rights Institute Lecture Series: Keynote with Dr. Angela Davis

Dr. Angela Davis.

Thursday, February 11, 5 p.m.

The culminating event for the SJSU HRI Human Rights Lecture Series, featuring the 2021 keynote human rights lecture from UC Santa Cruz Distinguished Professor Emerita Angela Davis. Following the lecture, join for a discussion of how these ideas are shaping political struggles in our region and across the country.

Sneaker History IS Black History

Sean Williams showcasing his sneakers on a stand.

Monday, February 15, noon

Sean Williams, a sneaker expert and consultant, will deliver a talk on the history of sneakers and its importance to Black history, with a Q&A session to follow. This event is hosted by the Department of African American Studies.

Department of Economics Provocative Lecture Series: “Why the Study of Economics Neglects Race, and What Can be Done About It?”

Wednesday, February 24 at 5:30 p.m.

Gary Hoover, economics professor and the executive director of the Murphy Institute at Tulane University, will speak about strategies for bringing race into the teaching and study of economics. Hoover received his PhD in economics from Washington University in St. Louis in 1998 and is the co-chair of the American Economic Association Committee on the Status of Minority Groups in the Economics Profession. He has also served as the vice president of the Southern Economic Association. He is the founding and current editor of the Journal of Economics, Race, and Policy. He has been a visiting scholar at the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin.

Hoover is also available on Friday, February 27 to meet with students and faculty members in small groups. Email SJSU Economics Professor Matthew Holian to book a time.

Frederick Douglass: Living History Presentation

Thursday, February 25, 11 a.m.

The San José State History Department is hosting a Chautauqua-style Living History performance, featuring James H. Armstead, Jr. as the iconic abolitionist Frederick Douglass. This event is free and open to the public. The departments of African American Studies, Communication Studies, the Black Leadership and Opportunity Center, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and the College of Social Sciences are co-sponsoring this event.


Beyond Words: Doing Justice – An Interview with Judge Thelton Henderson

Thursday, February 25, 7 p.m.

The Department of African American Studies co-sponsors an interview with Judge Thelton Henderson, who served on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Throughout his career, he has made transformational decisions on affirmative action, environmental protection and police and prison reform. In 1997, he ruled that Proposition 209, California’s anti-affirmative action initiative, was unconstitutional. This event is hosted by the San Jose/Silicon Valley Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Professional Development Workshop for Writers of Color, featuring Lynette Wanzer

Saturday, Feb. 27, 10 a.m.
Sunday, Feb. 28, 10 a.m.

Join the Diasporic Peoples Writing Collective for a two-day online professional development workshop for writers of color with writer Lynette Wanzer.

The interactive workshop covers finding free and low-cost professional tools that can strengthen your submissions, contest entries, grants and MFA applications, as well as creating a literary submissions calendar, drafting effective personal statements and a literary C.V., identifying trusted submission sites, grants, fellowships and residencies in markets that welcome writers of color.

Super Sunday

President Mary Papazian will provide a Zoom presentation at Emmanuel Baptist Church on Sunday, February 28, as part of California State University’s annual Super Sunday event, an effort to engage and serve underrepresented students. Vice President of Student Affairs Patrick Day will visit the Maranatha Christian Center, masked and socially distant, on the same day.

For more information about SJSU’s Black History Month events, please contact the Mosaic Cross Cultural Center at or The BLOC at



SJSU Celebrates Black History Month

The Black History Month Celebration is on February 10.

The Black History Month Celebration is on February 10.

This February, San Jose State University is recognizing Black History Month with a series of exciting and educational events. The various activities are sponsored by Student Involvement, the African American/Black Student Success Center, the Department of African American Studies, Mosaic Cross Cultural Center and Student Affairs.

Spartan Speaker Series: Reginald Dwayne Betts

Spartan Speakers Series presents Dwayne Betts, award-winning author, poet, lawyer and advocate for criminal justice reform, at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, February 26, in the Diaz Compean Student Union Ballroom. His memoir shares his experience in a Virginia prison, where he confronted solitary confinement, horrific conditions and violence before graduating from Yale Law School.

Super Sunday

President Mary Papazian and Vice President of Student Affairs Patrick Day will visit three San Jose churches on Sunday, February 23, as part of the California State University’s annual Super Sunday event, an effort to engage and serve underrepresented students.

Other Upcoming Events

Special events include a film screening of Proud Family (February 17), Faculty/Staff Dinner (February 11), and the African-American Career Fair (February 22), presented by the office of Congressman Ro Khanna.

Open Mic: Black History Month
Thursday, February 6, 6-8 p.m., Diaz Compean Student Union Theatre

Black History Month Celebration
Monday, February 10, 5-7 p.m., Diaz Compean Student Union Ballroom

Membership Night
Monday, February 10, 7 p.m., Diaz Compean Student Union, Room 2

Trivia Tuesday: Culture and History
Tuesday, February 11, Diaz Compean Student Union, Room 1

Faculty/Student Dinner
Tuesday, February 11, 6-8 p.m., Diaz Compean Student Union Ballroom

Spring Lecture Series with Assistant Professor of Public Relations Shaun Fletcher
Wednesday, February 12

BSU Black Love Series
Wednesday, February 12

Black Is … Black Ain’t …
Thursday, February 13, 6-8 p.m., MOSAIC Cross Cultural Center

Proud Family Movie Night
Monday, February 17, Diaz Compean Student Union, Room 2A

Kusoma Book Club Meeting
Thursday, February 20, African-American Studies Department Lounge

African-American Career Fair
Saturday, February 22, 9 a.m., Diaz Compean Student Union, Room 1

Spartan Speaker Series: Reginald Dwayne Betts
Wednesday, February 26, 7 p.m., Diaz Compean Student Union Ballroom

Living Thinkers Film and Podcast
Thursday, February 27, 5-5:30 p.m., MOSAIC Cross Cultural Center

Culture Showcase
Friday, February 28, 6:30 p.m.

Power Through Poetry: An Evening with Alan Pelaez Lopez
Wednesday, March 4

For more information about SJSU’s Black History Month events, please contact the Mosaic Cross Cultural Center at or the African American/Black Student Success Center at


Exhibition Celebrates 35 Years of Tabia African-American Theatre Ensemble

Tabia Theatre Ensemble

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Library is hosting an exhibit on the Black theatre group Tabia, founded by SJSU faculty and alumni, in honor of Black History Month. The opening reception was hosted on Jan. 25th, 2020. Photo by Brandon Chew, ’18 Journalism.

This month, the Africana, Asian American, Chicano and Native American Studies Center at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library is home to a special exhibit, featuring costumes, programs, photographs and mementos from the Tabia African-American Theatre Ensemble. Founded in 1985 by artistic director Viera Whye, ’04 MA Theatre Arts, along with Ann Johnson, Robert Parker, Rudy Morris, Arlene Sagun and Adaku Davis, Tabia has presented work by Black and African-American artists in San Jose and with its traveling troupe. The library exhibit was curated by SJSU Associate Professor of Journalism Duane “Michael” Cheers, who worked closely with Theatre Arts Professor Buddy Butler, resident director of the company, and Professor Emerita Ethel Walker, both of whom have dedicated decades to supporting African-American theater in San Jose and beyond.

“It’s important that we have an expression of multicultural theater in San Jose, specifically African-American theater,” said Whye. “Black history is also American history and it is important to have our voices authentically displayed.”

Over its 35-year history, Tabia has produced stage productions and performed as a traveling troupe, taking its touring Black History Show to schools, festivals, corporations, churches and conferences throughout the state. The traveling show presents historical figures, poetry, song and dance that conveys the contributions and culture of African-Americans. The theater company is under the umbrella of the San Jose Multicultural Arts Guild (SJMAG).

“Tabia/SJMAG’s mission is to unite and serve communities by conducting cross-cultural arts programming reflective of the experiences of African-Americans, women and Chicanos and Latinos,” writes Whye in a tribute essay printed in the exhibit. “Culturally specific theater, especially ‘Black Theater’ in San Jose (where the percentage of blacks has fluctuated from two percent to six percent over many years), has been at times a daunting and challenging task. But we have managed to sustain our presence and do high-quality work. I am so proud and appreciative of all who have served in this endeavor.”

“This exhibit is a wonderful exhibit showcasing Viera Whye and Tabia,” said Cheers. “Her African-American ensemble deserves so much credit in what they have achieved over the past 35 years. However, the story doesn’t end there.”

In an essay Cheers printed for the exhibit, he expresses a desire for SJSU to recruit more African-American theater professors, which will encourage more black and African-American students to pursue careers in the field. Cheers writes that representation matters, which is one of the reasons he hopes SJSU students and members of the public visit the library exhibit.

“The exhibit celebrates what Tabia has achieved and what it has given to San Jose State,” said Butler, who Cheers photographed for the exhibit. “It has provided several opportunities for young and upcoming black artists.”

On display on King Library’s fifth floor through February 29, the exhibit includes playbills, photographs, slideshows and props. The Tabia Ensemble’s next production is Eve of Jackie, a one-night performance by Broadway actor and singer Chester Gregory, on Friday, February 7.

Celebrate Black History Month at SJSU

At left, Dr. Theodorea Berry, chair of the Department of African-American Studies, poses for a photo with Pastor Jason C. Reynolds during San Jose State University's Super Sunday event Feb. 10 at Emanuel Baptist Church.

At left, Dr. Theodorea Berry, chair of the Department of African-American Studies, poses for a photo with Pastor Jason C. Reynolds during San Jose State University’s Super Sunday event Feb. 10 at Emmanuel Baptist Church.

This February, San Jose State University is recognizing Black History Month with a series of exciting and educational events, part of an ongoing effort to promote diversity and inclusion on campus. The various activities are sponsored by Student Involvement, the African American/Black Student Success Center, the Department of African-American Studies, Mosaic Cross Cultural Center and Student Affairs.

“These heritage month celebrations provide visible representation of our students on campus,” said Christopher Yang, the director of the Mosaic Cross Cultural Center, noting that SJSU celebrates four ethnic heritage months. “Students are so busy with all the things they need to work on–class, jobs, family. These events offer a chance to take a break and notice the efforts the campus is making.”

Yang noted that the events allow students of various identities to feel they have support on campus while also allowing an opportunity for campus communities who don’t identify with a particular ethnicity to learn about different cultures.

This year’s Black History Month events got an early start with a 30th anniversary celebration of African studies and a Legends and Legacies talk in January, with many more events planned into March.

For the remainder of the month, students are encouraged to attend weekly events such as the Black Male Collective: Barbershop Talk, the African History Film and Dialogue Series, the Leadership Drop-In Series, and monthly events hosted by the Black Student Union and the Black Women’s Collective. Topics include leadership, intersectionality, spirituality, and African and African-American history.

Visiting Scholar Lecture

On February 14 from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library Fifth Floor Shiro Room, David G. Holmes, a professor of English and associate dean of curriculum and general education at Pepperdine University, will give a visiting scholar lecture on “Black Religion Matters.” Holmes will examine the influence of Black religious rhetoric on mass civil rights meetings in Birmingham in the 1960s. The event is sponsored by the College of Humanities and the Arts, the Department of Communications, the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies, the Mosaic Cross Cultural Center and the Department of Justice Studies. RSVP to

Super Sunday

San Jose State University staff members from Student Outreach and Recruitment and the Financial Aid Office attend Super Sunday to talk with community members about preparing for college. Photo provided by Coleeta McElroy.

San Jose State University staff members from Student Outreach and Recruitment and the Financial Aid Office attend Super Sunday to talk with community members about preparing for college. Photo provided by Coleeta McElroy.

President Mary Papazian visited San Jose’s Emmanuel Baptist Church February 10 as part of the California State University’s annual Super Sunday event, an effort to engage and serve underrepresented students. She and Theodorea Berry, chair of the department of African-American Studies at SJSU spoke with community members about planning for college, with representatives from Student Outreach and Recruitment and the Financial Aid Office also available to answer questions. Vice President for Student Affairs Patrick Day will be visiting the Maranatha Christian Center on February 24, as part of the Super Sunday effort.

“Yesterday’s services at Emmanuel Baptist, part of the CSU’s Super Sunday activities, were warm, welcoming and joyful,” President Papazian (@PrezPapazian) following the services. “I was delighted to see many Spartans, which contributed to the energy and enthusiasm. Thank you, Pastor Reynolds, and thanks to your congregation for having me.”

Other Upcoming Events

Special events include a film screening of Black Panther (February 12), mardi gras celebration (February 13), Meet and Greet: Black Students, Faculty and Staff (February 25), and the Spartan Speakers Series on February 20, which features Broadway actor Bryan Terrell Clark, who played the role of George Washington in Hamilton.

Black Panther screening
Tuesday, February 12, 6 – 8 p.m., Student Union Theatre

Mardi Gras
Wednesday, February 13, 4 – 7 p.m., Student Union Ballroom

National Panhellenic Showcase
Wednesday, February 13, 7 – 9 p.m., Student Union Theatre

Black Male Collective: Barbershop Talk

  • Wednesday, February 13, 5 p.m. at Barbers, Inc.
    Wednesday, February 27, 5 p.m. at Mosaic Cross Cultural Center
    Wednesday, March 13, 5 p.m. at Barbers Inc.

Leadership Drop-In Series

  • What Famous Black Leader(s) Inspire You?
    Tuesday, February 12, 1:30 – 3 pm, Student Involvement
  • Leading While Black
    Tuesday, February 19, 1:30 – 3 pm, African-American/Black Student Success Center
  • Calling in Black: Handling Racial Battle Fatigue
    Tuesday, February 26, 1:30 – 3 pm, African-American/Black Student Success Center

African History Film and Dialogue Series

  • African Children and Youth
    Tuesday, February 12, 6 pm, Martin Luther King, Jr. Library 225
  • Health and Nutrition in the African Community
    Tuesday, February 19, 6 pm, Martin Luther King, Jr. Library 225
  • African Women
    Tuesday, February 26, 6 pm, Martin Luther King, Jr. Library 225

Black Student Union Meeting
Wednesday, February 13, 6:45 pm, Peer Connections

Spartan Speaker Series
Bryan Terrell Clark
Wednesday, February 20, 12 pm, Student Union

Black Women’s Collective
Intersectionality: Being Both Black and a Woman
Thursday, February 21, 6 – 8 pm, TBD’

Meet and Greet: Black Students, Faculty and Staff
Monday, February 25, 11:30 am – 3 pm, Student Union, Meeting Room 3A/3B’

Community Conversation: Black Love
Thursday, February 28, 7 – 9 pm, Martin Luther King, Jr. Library 225

Black Cultural Showcase
Friday, March 1, 6 p.m., Student Union Theatre

Spirituality and Activism
Saturday, March 2, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., First AME Zion Church

Yard on the Green
Friday, March 8, noon to 3 p.m., Smith and Carlos Sculpture

Hidden Figures Screening
Wednesday, March 13, 6 to 8 p.m, Student Union Theatre

Book Discussion: Becoming
Thursday, March 14, 7 p.m., Washington Square Hall, Room 281H


Learning to Lead: Behavioral Sciences Major Michael Madison

“Black History Month is a time to recognize all contributions that African-American individuals have given, not only to us, but to the world,” said senior behavioral sciences major Michael Madison, right, with a mentee (Dillon Adams photo).

By Amanda Holst, Public Affairs Assistant

(Editor’s note: In celebration of Black History Month, we profiled five campus leaders. Here’s the fourth in the series.)

For Michael Madison, there’s a clear line connecting his past, present and future.

This behavioral sciences senior grew up in South Central Los Angeles and attended Crenshaw High School.

After enrolling at Los Angeles Southwest College for football, Madison realized a four-year university would be a better fit. However, once at SJSU, he was off to a rocky start.

“In the beginning, I was lost in the shuffle and fell through the cracks,” he said.

All that changed when he joined SJSU’s Educational Opportunity Program.

Making connections

Madison now maintains a 3.0 GPA and is a member of the Gospel Choir and Black Student Union. In January, he joined Leadership Today, which he says was one of the best experiences he’s had at SJSU.

He also mentors 10 students with EOP’s “I Can/I Will” program, created last summer to provide academic support for incoming freshmen, transfer students, Guardian Scholars, and male Latino and African-American students.

“I tell students that I can’t tutor them, but I can give them connections,” Madison said. “I have been through a lot of the things that they will face.”

Madison’s favorite part of his job is that his mentees feel comfortable enough to come to him for answers.

“Not a day goes by without them texting me or wanting a conversation,” Madison said.

His inspiration comes from his grandmother, who raised him, and Cornel West, the African-American scholar, author, and activist.

“He’s an intellectual of our time and needs to be recognized more, especially in the black community and within our schools,” Madison said.

Celebrating innovation

For Madison, Black History celebrates ancestors who were innovators and who secured access to resources including education.

“We wouldn’t have a lot of things like open-heart surgery or the signal light,” Madison said. “Also, without Little Rock, we wouldn’t have been integrated in schools.”

One day, Madison hopes to build an academy for troubled Latino and African-American youth to share not just what but how he has learned at SJSU.

“In my experience, SJSU really cares,” he said. “They make it easy to be accessible and successful.”

That sense of caring is integral to Madison’s views on leadership, reflecting in his favorite quote.

“You can’t lead the people if you don’t love the people,” West said. “You can’t save the people if you don’t serve the people.”

Demerris speaking in her office with a student

The Lion’s Storyteller: University Ombudsman Demerris Brooks

Demerris speaking in her office with a student

“Black History Month is a time to really reflect on the progress and sacrifices of people who came before me and to remember all the things that people have done so that I can be where I am,” said University Ombudsman Demerris Brooks (Dillon Adams photo).

(Editor’s note: In celebration of Black History Month, we profiled five campus leaders. Here’s the third in the series.)

By Amanda Holst, Public Affairs Assistant

Empowering those who are struggling to be heard has always played an important role in Demerris Brooks’ life.

Born and raised in San Jose, Brooks attended Notre Dame High School and earned a bachelor’s in English from UC Berkeley, a master’s in education from Stanford University, and a master’s in education administration from Santa Clara University.

She was a school teacher and administrator for 13 years before coming to SJSU.

“I was actually recruited into administration from the classroom by a principal who said, ‘You are really good at what you do, but the policy pieces and the making the hard decisions isn’t something that everyone can do,’” Brooks recalled.

Brooks, who has also served as an administrative project specialist and Disability Resource Center interim director, leverages her strengths in her current role. As university ombudsman, she ensures university policies are applied fairly and consistently.

The Lion’s Storyteller

This work gives her the opportunity to engage with students who feel they are at the end of their rope.

“I enjoy giving them space where they have one-on-one contact with someone who is going to set aside some time, listen to them, and then talk about what their rights are as a student,” Brooks said.

The value she places in getting both sides of the story is reflected in her favorite quote, which is from an African proverb: “Until the lion has a storyteller, the hunter will always be the hero.”

“It’s a constant reminder to me of the individuals and populations who struggle to have their voices heard,” she said. “People like MLK, Gandhi, Chavez and Huerta understood the significance of power and privilege and took a stand on behalf of ‘the lion.'”

An Amazing Place

Brooks also appreciates the opportunity to hear firsthand the struggles and sacrifices that her grandparents endured, and knows that without their efforts, she wouldn’t have been able to go to college and work in a professional field.

Because of this, Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, holds a special place in her heart. The small town south of Cleveland was home to her father’s family, and campus buildings served as secret exits for the Underground Railroad.

“Oberlin was the first university in the country to regularly admit both female and black students,” Brooks said. “Just to have that historical connection with our family — it’s a pretty amazing place.”

Brooks tries hard to share the importance of Black history with her son and would like to see more of an integrated approach to the curriculum.

“This is our history and these are all of the people who contributed significantly,” she said. “Let’s not teach it as a one-off but as a part-of.”

King Library Hosts Black History Month Events

King Library Hosts Black History Month Events

Henrietta Lacks and husband

Henrietta and David Lacks, circa 1945, from "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks."

By Pat Lopes Harris, Media Relations Director

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library is hosting a wide range of events and exhibits in celebration of Black History Month.

University Scholar Series

Dr. Ruth Wilson, SJSU professor and chair of African-American Studies, will present “Genes, Guts and Grit: The Legacy of Three Extraordinary African-American Women” at noon Feb. 29 in King 225/229. Wilson’s research focuses on African-American women and the new black diversity in the African-American community. Her lecture will provide an overview of three women “she-roes” in American history: Lucy Terry Prince, Maria Stewart and Henrietta Lacks. Their contributions add texture to the characteristic descriptions of the 18th, 19th and 20th century American woman.

California Room Spring Open House

Many of us go to the library to borrow the latest movie or newest bestseller, but did you know King Library also houses items that are over 100 years old? The California Room is home to two sculptures by 19th century African-American and Chippewa-Indian artist Edmonia Lewis. To learn more about these sculptures, attend the open house at 6 p.m. Feb. 15, when local expert Mary Parks Washington will discuss the artist and her work.

Burdick Military History Project

SJSU’s Burdick Military History Project will present artifacts from one of the nation’s largest private collections at “The Price of Liberty: Artifacts of African-American Military Service,” an exhibit at the Cultural Heritage Center on the fifth floor of King Library through Feb. 29. Curator Antony L. Powell is a San Jose-based historian who for three decades has been studying, teaching, collecting and writing about America’s “buffalo soldiers,” the first peacetime all-Black regiments in the regular U.S. Army.

View more info on related events.

Olympian John Carlos Headlines Legacy Week

The Guardian: Smith/Carlos Salute Among 50 Top Olympic Moments

50 stunning Olympic moments No13: Tommie Smith and John Carlos salute

Smith and Carlos, the 200m gold and bronze medallists, don black gloves and give the Black Power salute on the podium in Mexico in 1968

Posted by The Guardian Feb. 8, 2012.

On 17 October 2005 a 20ft-high statue was unveiled at San Jose State University showing their former students Tommie Smith and John Carlos frozen, fists aloft, as they had stood exactly 37 years earlier on the Olympic podium in Mexico City. “Tommie Smith and John Carlos stood for justice, dignity, equality and peace,” reads the inscription. “Hereby the university and associated students commemorate their legacy.”

Two years later Smith published his autobiography. In 2008 the pair were given the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs, something akin to an American Sports Personality of the Year awards. Carlos’s own autobiography followed last October. This, now, is their life, full of speaking engagements and interviews, publicity and publication, applause and acclaim.

In the moments before the medal ceremony in Mexico City, Carlos, Smith – as of a few moments earlier the 200 metres world record-holder – and the Australian silver-medallist Peter Norman sat in a room the athletes called “the dungeon”, deep in the bowels of the Olympic Stadium. As they prepared, they discussed what was about to happen. One of the things mentioned was the possibility of them being murdered on the spot.

“I remember telling Mr Smith: ‘Remember when we get out there, we’ve been trained as runners to listen to the gun,'” Carlos has said. “‘So when we get out there and do what we do, if the hammer hits that bullet, hit the deck. Don’t be just a duck on the table for them to just shoot at.'”

Whose idea was the raised fist? With depressing inevitability, both athletes have claimed it. According to Carlos, just before the final he suggested it to Smith: “I’m going to do something on the stand to let those in power know they’re wrong. I want you with me.” He even claimed to have deliberately lost the race, because “Tommie Smith would have never put his fist in the sky had I won”. But if this were true, why would Smith by then have procured the pair of black gloves the pair famously go on to share? Smith, meanwhile, recalled: “I told John what I was planning to do. I said: ‘You don’t have to do anything that I do, but this is what I’m going to do. Just follow my lead.'” These competing claims caused the pair to fall out for several years, but more recently Carlos has stated that the protest had been planned by the two athletes together over a period of days.

What is currently agreed on is this: they wore gloves to represent black America, and removed their shoes and wore black socks to symbolise the poverty of the American black community. Smith wore a scarf and Carlos a bead necklace, recalling lynching. Both Americans wore the badge of the Olympic Project for Human Rights, and they planned to raise their gloved fists, which according to Smith at the time “stood for the power in black America”.

Norman recalled those moments in “the dungeon” thus: “They involved me in the conversation. It wasn’t a secret huddle, they were letting me know. It was my suggestion that they split Tommie’s gloves because John had left his back in his room. [Then] I said to John: ‘You got another one of those badges?’ ‘If I get you one, will you wear it?’ he asked. ‘I sure would,’ I replied.”

Neither Smith nor Carlos had a spare badge, but as they walked into the light of the stadium they saw Paul Hoffman, a (white) member of the US rowing team and OPHR activist. “I was wearing my badge and he came up and said: ‘Hey mate, you got another one of those?’ So here’s this white Australian, with two black Americans, who wants to wear an OPHR badge, and I was damned if I was going to be the one who says he can’t,” Hoffman told the BBC (in the excellent documentary Black Power Salute, which you can currently see here). “So I took mine off and handed it to him.”

They reached the podium, where a rather bemused Lord Burghley, the sixth marquis of Essex – a Conservative politician and International Olympic Committee member who 40 years earlier had won gold in Amsterdam in the 400m hurdles – placed their medals around their necks. When asked later what he had thought of the gloves, he said: “I thought they had hurt their hand.”

The anthem started. Smith and Carlos thrust their fists in the air. Different people recall the reaction within the stadium very differently: Time magazine reported that “a wave of boos rippled through the spectators”, but Newsweek describes simply a “murmur [that] rippled through the stadium”, and in the New York Times it is reported that the protest “actually passed without much general notice”. What is certain is that for everybody involved, life was about to change for ever.

If San Jose’s brilliant sprinting coach, Lloyd “Bud” Winter, was responsible for them reaching the podium, another member of the university’s staff was largely responsible for what they did there: Harry Edwards, the inspirational young sociology professor and creator of the OPHR, had done much to politicise the pair – particularly Smith, by nature more reserved and less militant than his fellow medallist.

Edwards had originally advocated a black boycott of the Games. “For years we have carried the United States on our backs with our victories, and race relations are now worse than ever,” he had told the New York Times. “It’s time for the black people to stand up as men and women and refuse to be utilised as performing animals for a little extra dog food.”

The boycott was also supported by Martin Luther King, who had met Edwards and several athletes including Carlos in New York a few days before he was assassinated in April that year. “I would like to commend the outstanding athletes who have the courage and determination to make it clear that they will not participate in the 1968 Olympics until something is done about these terrible evils and injustices,” he said.

But many black athletes were keen to compete in Mexico, and when South Africa and Rhodesia were disinvited from the Games – one of the OPHR’s three main demands – the boycott plan was dropped. Other ideas swiftly took its place, and at the US trials a few weeks before the Games, officials were warned to “expect almost anything”.

So immediately after Smith and Carlos made their stand a statement was released which stated: “US Olympic officials knew they planned to do it,” and that they “did not expect to take any action”.

But then Avery Brundage got involved.

Brundage was the IOC’s president from 1952 to 1972, and he was also an antisemite, white supremacist and Nazi sympathiser, whom the athletes preferred to call “Slavery Avery”. His removal from office had been one of the OPHR’s other key demands. His pet hate – ironically, given his active involvement in the 1936 Games in Berlin, which became a propaganda exercise for the Nazi party – was the use of sport for political or nationalistic ends. He detested and did his best to ban medal tables, and in 1964 came close to passing a motion that would have denied Smith and Carlos their memorable moment, by ending the raising of national flags and the playing of anthems at medal ceremonies and replacing them with the Olympic flag and “a fanfare of trumpets”.

He might have been presenting the medals himself that day, had he not been in Acapulco watching the sailing (the original purpose of the gloves, according to Carlos, was as protection in case they were required to shake his hand). But Brundage had seen the ceremony, and he was mad as hell.

The IOC criticised Smith and Carlos for “advertising their domestic political views”, which amounted to “a deliberate and violent breach of the fundamental principles of the Olympic spirit”. The US Olympic Committee, threatened with the expulsion of its entire team unless action was taken, suddenly changed its tune, putting out a second statement apologising for an act of “untypical exhibitionism … which violates the basic standards of sportsmanship and good manners which are so highly regarded in the United States”. Smith and Carlos were given 48 hours to pack their bags and leave the country. Hoffman, for the crime of lending Norman his badge, was very nearly expelled as well, and got away with it only because his father was a judge and a personal friend of many American officials.

The protest had not been much better received back home. “‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’ is the motto of the Olympic Games. ‘Angrier, nastier, uglier’ better describes the scene in Mexico City last week,” reported Time, describing the protest as “a public display of petulance that sparked one of the most unpleasant controversies in Olympic history”. Associated Press called it “a bizarre demonstration”. One of few voices of support from white America came from Robert Clark, the enlightened president of San Jose State, who praised them as “honourable young men dedicated to the cause of justice for the Black people in our society”.

Back in Mexico City, Jesse Owens was sent to talk black athletes out of staging similar protests (though he was ignored, and considered a white apologist by many). They were told “A repetition of such incidents … would warrant the imposition of the severest penalties at the disposal of the US Olympic Committee.” But protests of varying degrees of subtlety abounded. After a black American clean sweep in the men’s 400m, won by Lee Evans, another student of Edwards at San Jose State, all three athletes wore berets to their medal ceremony. Long-jump gold-medallist Bob Beamon wore black socks pulled up high, while the bronze-medallist, Ralph Boston, went barefoot. “They’re going to have to send me home, too,” he said. They did not. The women’s 4x100m relay team publicly dedicated their own gold medals to Carlos and Smith.

(But another athlete, the heavyweight boxer George Foreman, who claims he “thought about going home myself” in solidarity after Smith and Carlos were expelled, then celebrated his own gold medal by waving a little American flag in the ring. He was castigated in the black community. “I felt what I did was right, and I think they appreciate me more for doing what I think was right than following what they think was right,” Foreman said the following month. In his autobiography Smith says Foreman’s flag-waving made him “very bitter, very angry”.)

What happened next?

The BBC paid them $1,000 in cash for an exclusive interview. Will you not benefit from the notoriety and publicity the protest has generated, they were asked. “I can’t eat that,” Carlos said. “And the kids round my block can’t eat it. They can’t eat publicity, they can’t eat gold medals. All they want is an equal chance to be a human being.”

The truth of this observation was clear after their return to America. After a near-violent scrum of reporters assaults them in Los Angeles, they board a second flight to San Jose. “Once we got back we were ostracised, even by our own,” Smith said. “Folks were scared, man. No jobs. We couldn’t find work. People even told us, ‘We can’t get close to you guys because we have our own jobs to protect.’ These were my friends. At least, they were my friends before I left for Mexico City.”

Smith’s agent cancelled their contract, and Smith was sacked from his job washing cars. Within two years his mother had died, his marriage was over, and he was unemployed and broke. “My mother died of a heart attack in 1970 as a result of pressure delivered to her from farmers who sent her manure and dead rats in the mail because of me,” he said. “My brothers in high school were kicked off the football team, my brother in Oregon had his scholarship taken away.”

Carlos fared little better. “I came back ‘John Carlos the neighbourhood bum’,” he has said. “I would soon have no money and I had to beg, borrow, steal and gamble to pay my rent. I remember chopping the furniture up for firewood and my wife looking at me as if I was crazy. But our heating was electric and I couldn’t pay my electricity bill, so we had to take the kids to sleep by the fireplace.” His wife left him, and in 1977 she took her own life. “I lost my first wife in this thing. But I’ll never be bitter toward anyone,” he said. “Not for the criticisms or the death threats or anything. If I’m bitter, they win.”

Peter Norman’s time of 20.06 remains an Australian record, and would have won the gold medal in two of the past three Olympics. He continued to race, competing in the 1970 Commonwealth Games, but even though he comfortably reached qualifying standards in 1972 for both the 100m and 200m, for which he was at the time ranked No5 in the world, he was not selected, and Australia travelled to Munich with no sprinters at all. When the Olympics were held in Sydney in 2000 notable Australian former medallists were invited to take part in a ceremony at the Olympic Stadium; Norman was not among them. He made it to the stadium only after officials from US Track & Field heard of their plight and stepped in. “They treated us like royalty,” said his second wife, Jan (his first marriage also failed after 1968). When Norman died in 2006, Smith and Carlos acted as pallbearers. “He didn’t raise his fist,” Smith said, “but he did lend a hand.”

The redemption of Smith and Carlos started in 1983, when the president of the organising committee of the Los Angeles Games, Peter Ueberroth, hired Carlos as special consultant on minority affairs. Ueberroth personally handled the resulting storm of protest, but Carlos’s work was later seen as one of the key factors behind the success of the Games.

Looking back at the bad times, Carlos has said: “If I’ve got to take a whuppin’ for something I believe in, I’ll take that whuppin’.”

What the Guardian said: 18 October 1968

Although every athletics expert was aware that the United States Negro athletes might protest, the manner of it surprised many in the Olympic Stadium here last night.

It was more restrained and yet more effective than some had thought. There was the possibility that Tommie Smith or John Carlos, overwhelming favourites for the sprint events, might refuse to appear at the medals ceremony. In fact, both showed a keen awareness of the publicity values involved, and their appearance in black socks and black scarves, and each with a single black glove, Smith’s on the right hand, Carlos’s on the left, showed a knowledge of public relations equalled only by Cassius Clay, now Muhammad Ali

At the press conference afterwards, the same awareness was apparent. The representatives of the world’s press crowded into a room perhaps 40 feet by 30. The organisation insisted that questions and replies were put in English, Spanish and French.

International press conferences usually begin with pussy-footing questions of remarkable banality. The first question to Carlos was why he looked over his left shoulder and whether it cost him second place – a good technical question but utterly remote from the emotional context of the occasion …

Questions concerning which coach had meant most to Smith were hooted off court by all except the conscientious interpreters. Finally Carlos lost patience and burst out with the statement: “We are black and we are proud to be black in white America.”

Black Americans, he said, would understand the nature of their demonstration.

“We are not a show horse doing a performance, so if we do a good job we get paid some peanuts. All through these Olympics I hear them say ‘Boy, boy, boy, you’re doing well.’ I am tired of that. I want the whole press of the world to hear what I say and either say it as I say it or not say it at all.”

… The US team officials were obviously left with a problem. What, if any, disciplinary action would be taken. “I’d pack them all back home,” one British official said trenchantly. He perhaps has no White House to deal with.

Business Admin Major Michelle Elliott: Believing in Unseen Potential

Business Admin Major Michelle Elliott: Believing in Unseen Potential

Michelle sitting at an outdoor table with a young lady she mentors.

“Black History Month is a time to look back at the ensconced lives of African American families, regaining our perspective on the strength, endurance and power we possess as a people,” said senior business administration major Michelle Elliott (Dillion Adams photo).

(Editor’s note: In celebration of Black History Month, we profiled five campus leaders. Here’s the second in the series.)

By Amanda Holst, Public Affairs Assistant

Although she attended three different San Jose high schools before graduating, it wasn’t until Michelle Elliott had nearly completed her associate’s degree at Evergreen Valley College that she knew attending San Jose State was possible.

“That was the first time I realized I had the potential and ability to pursue my dreams,” said the senior business administration major. “I also knew that there was so much more I wanted to learn.”

Elliott is a student and employee mentor of the Educational Opportunity Program, which supports first generation, low-income, historically disadvantaged students.

Taking a Leap of Faith

She enjoys working with students that come from such backgrounds, but who do not let circumstances dictate their futures.

“They are taking a leap of faith and making a decision to challenge themselves because they believe they are worth it,” Elliott said.

Elliott also enjoys working with the EOP staff, which she says offers a gracious, motivating and structured environment for success.

“There is a great deal of community support, opportunities, and integrated projects, giving the students a fulfilling experience while attending school here,” Elliott said.

Getting Through Tough Times

Although Elliott’s inspiration comes from the students she mentors, she turns to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to get her through the tough times.

“Dr. Martin Luther King impacted my life by revealing the traits and characteristics of selflessness and love,” Elliott said.

Elliott’s support and encouragement helps fellow students transition to college life and adds to her personal growth.

“My favorite aspect of my job is working with students like myself, who believe in their hearts that there is more to their being than what they currently see,” she said.

This is reflected in her favorite quote: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy path,” Proverbs 3:5-6.

President Mohammad Qayoumi

CSU, Churches Unite Behind Message of College Preparation

President Mohammad Qayoumi

President Mo Qayoumi

Media contact: Pat Lopes Harris, 408-656-6999

(February 8, 2012) – California State University Chancellor Charles B. Reed, trustees, and campus presidents are among the group of officials who will speak at Super Sunday events held at more than 100 predominantly African American churches throughout the state in February, celebrating Black History Month.

President Qayoumi

SJSU President Mo Qayoumi spoke Feb. 12 at Antioch Baptist Church.

Just a few blocks north of campus, Antioch is among the oldest African American churches in the South Bay. The church’s congregation included the first African American woman to graduate from SJSU. Lucy Turner Johnson completed her degree in 1907.

Top SJSU administrators will speak at a total of six churches this and next weekend as part of the CSU Super Sunday program. Details are provided below.

Chancellor Reed

Reed spoke during the 10 a.m. service at Crenshaw Christian Center in Los Angeles on Feb. 12.  On Feb. 19, Reed will take to the pulpit during the 10:30 a.m. service at Family Bible Fellowship in Newark.

“The California State University continues its commitment to reach out to California’s communities with the information students need to prepare themselves for success,” said Reed.  “Education is more important than ever.  The CSU awarded 99,000 degrees last year and these college graduates return the benefits of their success back to families and communities while also contributing to the economic recovery for all Californians.”

The events, reaching more than 100,000 churchgoers, are part of CSU’s outreach to educate students and families about the requirements to successfully enter college and obtain a degree.  Participants also receive information about financial aid and the web site that provides the tools to plan and apply to a CSU campus.

“How to Get to College”

After the church service, parents and students will have the opportunity to talk to CSU representatives and receive a How To Get To College poster — a practical guide about how to prepare for college.  The guide, available in several languages, in print and electronic form, provides the list of classes that students need to take from sixth grade to twelfth grade to qualify for admission to the CSU.  It also provides tips for parents and mentors to help students succeed.

The annual Super Sunday event is produced by the CSU African American Initiative — a partnership between CSU campuses and African American religious leaders with the goal of increasing college going rates among African American students.  The initiative is led by Chancellor Reed and engages CSU trustees, campus presidents, executives and staff.

Matthew Jenkins, a member of the California State University Foundation Board, has additionally created scholarships for students attending churches participating in the CSU African American Initiative.  Interested students will apply through designated church scholarship offices.

Efforts of the initiative are paying off, as more African American students prepare for and apply to the CSU.  During the months of October and November 2011, the CSU received 16,588 applications from individuals self-identifying as African American.  This is an increase of nearly 1,000 from the prior year.

For more information about the list of participating churches, times of service and locations, go to the Super Sunday website.

Visit the CSU External Relations website to learn more about the CSU African American Initiative and other community initiatives and partnerships to address college access for underserved communities.

February 12, 2012
Sunday Worship Service

Antioch Baptist Church
10 a.m.
268 E Julian St., San Jose, CA 95112

Saint Paul Missionary Baptist Church
10 a.m.
1930 W San Antonio St, San Jose, CA 95112

February 19, 2012
Sunday Worship Service

Emmanuel Baptist Church
7:30 a.m.
467 N. White Road, San Jose, CA 95127

Maranatha Christian Center
10:45 a.m.
1811 S. 7th St., San Jose, CA 95112

Bible Way Christian Center
11 a.m.
2090 Oakland Road, San Jose, CA 95131

Greater Love Church of God in Christ
3 p.m.
159 Dixon Road, Milpitas, CA 95035

Spartan Basketball’s Talvin Hester: Keeping the Faith, Staying Grounded

Coach Hester on the court with players.

“Black History symbolizes the people who laid the path for what our country was supposed to stand for. They fought for us so that now, we can all live in a society that is free and can join together.” (Dillon Adams photo)

(Editor’s note: In celebration of Black History Month, we profiled five campus leaders. Here’s the first in the series.)

By Amanda Holst, Public Affairs Assistant


Men’s Basketball Assistant Coach Talvin Hester enjoys helping young people just starting out in life, and he hopes it means as much to them as it does to him.

“I always had a desire to help young men and I think that basketball is what I do best and so I use that as a vehicle,” he said.

After graduating in 2003 from Texas Wesleyan University, Arlington, with a degree in interdisciplinary studies and education, Hester worked as an assistant coach at Texas College and Prairie View A&M, where he spent six years.

When the Prairie View Panthers emerged as a defensive powerhouse, SJSU Head Coach George Nessman took note and persuaded Hester to come to San Jose State, where he has coached since 2010.

“It’s gratifying going to bigger situations as my career progressed,” Hester said. “The people I work with are like my family away from family.”

Hester has observed over the years that no matter where players are from, they need the same things.

“They all need the same growth and they all need the same mentorship or leadership to do the things they need to do,” Hester said.

The Best Advice

What Hester remembers the most from his mentors is that life is a marathon, not a sprint. The best advice, however, came from his mother.

“She’s taught me that if I can keep my faith and stay grounded, then I will stay blessed,” Hester said.

According to Hester, she stayed fast in her faith, which gave her the strength to raise three kids on her own.

“People complain all the time about what they don’t have,” Hester said. “She never did that in front of us. She always told us what we could do.”

His favorite quote reflects this: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” Philippians  4:13.

A Lasting Impression

When asked who in history has impacted his life, Hester answered Ben Jobe, a basketball coaching icon at historically black colleges and universities.

He is best known for his 12-year tenure as the head coach at Southern University. He also served as head coach at Alabama A&M, Alabama State, Talladega, Tuskegee and South Carolina State.

“He was one of the first black coaches to coach at what had been an all-white university, and one of the only head coaches from among the historically black colleges and universities to win a national tournament,” Hester said.

Hester dreams of giving back and leaving a lasting impression, the same way Jobe did.

“Hopefully, some young man will look at me in that same manner, and say that I inspired him to do some of the things he wanted to do,” Hester said.