Updated: Mar 5
UCLA keynote speaker attempted to inspire action with a speech that touched on racial equity through the lens of both the past, present and future.
By Soren Blomquist Eggerling, Staff Writer
As the svelte voices of singers Erykah Badu and Maxwell relaxed the attendees that continued to filter in, host Andrea Eke-Amaker thanked a wide range of people as she introduced the afternoon’s speaker, Tyrone Howard. Last Tuesday, Howard served as the keynote speaker for Valley College and Los Angeles Community College’s Umoja community’s Black History Month programming, giving a lecture that could be described as both inspirational and informative.
Keeping with the theme of ‘History Has Its Eyes on Us: Bold, Fearless and Ambitious,’ Howard — an accomplished professor who created UCLA’s Black Male Institute and heads its Pritzker Center for Strengthening Children and Families — delivered a message focused on a recognition of the women and men of our nation’s past “who worked tirelessly” for a better tomorrow and the action we can take in the present and future to create a more equitable America.
“Let us be clear. A lot of folks came into the moment in the spring of 2020, but other folks had committed a lifetime to this movement,” Howard emphasized as he touched on the protests in 2020 sparked by the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among many other Black Americans. “What we have to make sure as our legacy is that that moment does not become just a moment, that it becomes a movement … We have to recognize that the fight for Black Lives Matter is far from over.”
Howard highlighted coronavirus deaths and the medical field as prominent examples of how systemic racism leaves African Americans being treated “as less than human.”
Howard referenced lunch counter sit-ins, the integration of public schools and the founding of grassroots political movements like the Black Panther Party — which was founded at California-based Merritt College — as ways young people can take action that can result in major improvements in the quality of life for African Americans. Howard pointed out that a comparable event are the recent elections in Georgia, where two historically Republican U.S. Senate seats were won by Democrats in large part due to young, predominantly Black voters.
“So many of our most pivotal movements, so many of our most transformative points in time have been initiated, led by and sustained by young folks,” Howard stressed.
After offering five points he viewed as a basic outline for how to take action (become involved, informed, passionate, connected and committed), Howard ended the Zoom call by taking questions from the audience. He noted that the creation of the Black Male Institute was inspired by a lack of representation of Black people among the non-athletes in the student body, and his desire to improve UCLA’s recruitment of Black students in general through pipeline programs and increased attention and cooperation from the university’s administration on the issue.
In response to another question, Howard made it clear that he saw no need for police presence on school campuses, saying that they disproportionately and unfairly target minority communities. He also gave information on how to volunteer at the Pritzker Center.
Clasping his hands together, Howard thanked everyone for their time. He shouted out Valley, and with a peace sign, he was on his way. After responding to a quick wrap-up poll, so too was the rest of the crowd, possibly with a bit more inspiration than they had an hour before.