COVID-19 forced the cancellation of many parades and marches marking Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year.
But the pandemic will not put a damper on UC Santa Cruz’s 37th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation,which will pivot to an unprecedented all-virtual format when it takes place on Friday, February 12, from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
Usually the event is held at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, which was packed to the rafters and with lines around the block for such speakers as activist, author, and distinguished UC Santa Cruz Professor Emerita Angela Davis and Black Lives Matter cofounder Alicia Garza.
This time around, the Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation Planning Committee, made up of students, professional staff, and faculty, expect a robust online crowd to hear keynote speaker Mariame Kaba, an organizer, educator, curator, and prison industrial complex abolitionist who is active in movements for racial, gender, and transformative justice.
Registration is free for the convocation, which is open to the public.
Kaba will take part in an onstage dialogue with UC Santa Cruz associate professor of feminist studies Gina Dent.
“We are fortunate to learn more about Mariame Kaba’s work on racial and gender justice and abolition, which is instrumental in dismantling the prison-industrial complex, structural racism, and anti-blackness,” said Associate Vice Chancellor/Chief Diversity Officer Teresa Maria Linda Scholz. “She will provide transformative guidance to members of the UCSC community and beyond who are committed to community organizing and abolition work.”
Kaba is the founder and director of Project NIA, a grassroots abolitionist organization with a vision to end youth incarceration. She is also a researcher at Interrupting Criminalization: Research in Action at the Barnard Center for Research on Women, a project she cofounded with police misconduct attorney and organizer Andrea Ritchie in 2018.
She has cofounded multiple other organizations and projects over the years including We Charge Genocide, the Chicago Freedom School, the Chicago Taskforce on Violence against Girls and Young Women, Love & Protect, the Just Practice Collaborative, and Survived & Punished. She is a member of the Movement for Black Lives Policy Table.
Kaba offers a radical analysis that influences how people think and respond to how violence, prisons, and policing affect the lives of people of color.
She is the author of Missing Daddy, in which a child narrator explores the emotions she feels surrounding her father’s incarceration. Her forthcoming book, We Do This ‘Til We Free Us: Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice, will be published in February.
The convocation celebrates the life, dream, and enduring vision of Martin Luther King Jr. High-profile speakers who have addressed the crowd at the convention include Yolanda King, activist, actress, and daughter of Martin Luther King Jr.; the late actress and activist Cicely Tyson; Harvard University professor Cornel West; author and social activist bell hooks (Ph.D. ’83, literature); and poet, commentator, activist, and professor Nikki Giovanni.