Originally printed in the Spring 2016 issue of FaultLines.
By Desirée Valadares, CRG Graduate Student Researcher
On Saturday, November 21st 2015, UC Berkeley hosted activists, scholars, students and faculty to honor those involved in the Third World Liberation Front (twLF) strikes of the late 1960s at San Francisco State University and UC Berkeley. The Third World Multiracial Solidarity and Community Engagement Conference was organized by UCB Students from Ethnic Studies 41AC and Asian American & Asian Diaspora Studies 20AC under the leadership of Prof. Harvey Dong and Prof. Emeritus Carlos Muñoz. Distinguished guests included LaNada War Jack (PhD, 1969 twLF striker, UC Berkeley), Juanita Tamayo Lott (1968 twLF striker, SF State University), Douglas Daniels (PhD, 1969 twLF striker, UC Berkeley) and Jason Ferreira (PhD, 1999 twLF, UC Berkeley). The panelists recounted their involvement in the 1969 strikes and addressed a crowded Hearst Annex auditorium of over 300 attendees. These 1969 student strikes, buttressed between the Free Speech Movement and the student protests surrounding People’s Park, were often considered amongst the longest and most violent student strikes on campus.
In 1968-69 in the midst of national and global decolonial uprisings, four UC Berkeley student groups – the Afro-American Students Union, Mexican-American Student Confederation, Native American Students United and Asian-American Political Alliance – united in solidarity to create a campus coalition called the Third World Liberation Front, or twLF. A few months prior, African American, Asian American, Chicano and Native American students at San Francisco State University decried widespread institutional racism and demanded the establishment of a Third World College to address more culturally relevant modes of education that reflected the needs of an increasingly diverse student bodies. These 1969 twLF student-led strikes were instrumental in challenging existing pedagogical approaches on college campuses and helped to introduce more community-based teaching, service learning opportunities and formalization of Ethnic Studies programs, comprised of departments of Asian American, African American, Chicano and Native American studies.
The Center for Race and Gender (CRG) led an afternoon film sceening and panel discussion focusing on the second wave of twLF students from 1999. The 45 minute documentary film, Ethnic Studies: On Strike 1999, directed by a student activist in the 1999 strikes, Prof. Irum Sheikh, opened with an overview of the historical context that established the Ethnic Studies Department at UC Berkeley in the late sixties. The film captured the later 1999 Ethnic Studies demonstrations, hunger strikes, massive occupations and student arrests at the UC Berkeley campus. These strikes emerged from a dissatisfied Ethnic Studies student body who felt that university administrators had failed to honor the commitments from 1969 and failed to meet the needs of students of color on campus. In solidarity with ethnic organizations and progressive community groups, twLF 1999 students called for a more democratic decision making process and negotiated with university administrators for a community-based ethnic studies outreach and research facility, a multicultural student center and the hiring of eight full-time ethnic studies professors. This historic agreement between students and the Chancellor ultimately led to the founding of CRG at UC Berkeley. A panel discussion featuring students, faculty observers and former 1999 twLF strikers followed the film screening. Invited panelists, Ziza Delgado (UC Berkeley Ethnic Studies), Prof. Roberto Hernandez (San Diego State University), Prof. Priya Kandaswamy (Mills College), Prof. Sara Clarke Kaplan (UC San Diego), Prof. Jeff Romm (Environmental Science, Policy and Management, UC Berkeley) and distinguished moderator, Prof. Paola Bacchetta (Gender and Womens Studies, UC Berkeley) discussed the importance of CRG as it has grown and evolved over the years to become a community hub committed to community-engaged research and the critical study of race, gender and sexuality at Cal. The panel discussion was especially valuable in light of recent events centering on the proposed restructuring of the CRG and the discussion and breakout sessions were an opportunity to clarify, inform and constructively brainstorm alternative solutions for the CRG’s future.
For audio of this panel, visit this CRG podcast.