"People know about Rosa Parks. People know about Martin Luther King Jr. — and they should. And they know that it was the Montgomery bus boycott that ignited a certain kind of Southern civil rights movement," says Ula Taylor, a professor in the Department of African American Studies at UC Berkeley. But, what they might not know, she says, is that it was actually the behind-the-scenes organizing effort by the Women's Political Council, led by Jo Ann Robinson, that made the boycott successful."Even though these women were not in the limelight, they were engaging in a form of leadership," says Taylor. "But because we live in a country in a culture where we oftentimes identify leadership as a talking head, we don’t understand all of the thinking that goes behind a lot of the ideas that the talking head is even articulating."Read the story and see photos on Berkeley News.
63: Oral history project reveals '20 shades of Jerry Brown'
UC Berkeley's Oral History Center and KQED teamed up to record the longest interview that Jerry Brown has ever done — one that offers a first-person account of his nearly five decades in California politics. For 20 sessions, they sat at Brown’s dining room table at his ranch in Colusa County and asked him about everything from what it is was like having a father in politics to dating singer Linda Ronstadt to his views on politics today.See photos and read the transcript on Berkeley News.
62: After Parkland shooting, student fights for mental health resources in schools
Feb. 14, 2018, began like any other day for Kai Koerber. He was running late for his early morning AP English class at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. When he got there, he was handed the class's biggest assignment of the year and groaned. "At the time, I was like, 'Man, this is going to be the worst part of my day,'" says Koerber, now a first-year computer science major at UC Berkeley.After English, he had honors chemistry, followed by pre-calculus, then guitar class in the band room. At 2:18 p.m., he asked to use the restroom, but another classmate was out, so his teacher told Kai to wait. Two minutes later, the fire alarm went off. And what followed was a tragedy that his school would become known for — one that Kai would decide to speak out about, changing the narrative about the impact of gun violence on youth in the United States.At Berkeley, in between classes and studying, Kai works to promote his nonprofit and mental health curriculum — something that he's become passionate about since he survived one of the deadliest school shootings in the country.Read the transcript and see photos on Berkeley News.
61: What does it mean to be a Native artist today?
After student Drew Woodson took a playwriting course with Philip Gotanda, a professor in the Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies at Berkeley, he realized he had a story to tell. Two years later, that story would become his first play,Your Friend, Jay Silverheels.“The original idea for this play came out of this frustration I was having as an actor of not being able to find monologues that really fit and felt true to who I am as a Native person,” says Woodson. “I knew I had to write this story, to get it down on paper — not only for myself as an actor, but for other Native actors who maybe felt the same way as me.”On Dec. 5, Woodson is staging a reading ofYour Friend, Jay Silverheelsin Durham Studio Theater in Dwinelle Hall on campus.Listen, see photos and read a transcript on Berkeley News.
60: Fighting injustice with poetry
Saida Dahir grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah. At first, she thought she was like everyone else. But by sixth grade, she realized she was different. Her family was from Somalia — she was born in a refugee camp in Kenya after her family fled the civil war. The more she tried to fit in, the worse she felt. But in eighth grade, when she met Mr. Brandy, a journalism and English teacher, she began to realize her own power and started writing poetry. By her senior year, she was performing her poetry at protests and rallies across the country, proudly commenting on the injustices she saw all around her.Listen, see photos and read a transcript on Berkeley News.
59: Teeter totters as activism: How the border wall became a playground
When UC Berkeley architect Ronald Rael took his bright pink teeter totters to the U.S.-Mexico border wall, he didn't know that what he and his team did next would go viral. He just wanted to create a moment where people on both sides of the wall felt connected to each other. “Women and children completely disempowered this wall for a moment, for 40 minutes," says Rael. "There was a kind of sanctuary hovering over this event."Read the story and see photos on Berkeley News.
58: The military isn't out to 'crush anybody who’s different'
"I grew up just super dirt poor ... about as poor as you can be in this country," says first-year Berkeley Law student, Blake Danser. School was where Danser felt safe, where he thrived. "And then puberty hit, and I felt weird in a way that I couldn't really identify," he says. At the time, Blake was actually Amanda — a 14-year-old self-described tomboy. After seeing a transgender character in a TV show, Danser thought that maybe that's why he felt different — because he was transgender. But a friend convinced him that he wasn't, and Danser forgot about it until years later.After high school, Danser realized he couldn't afford college, so he joined the Air Force. "In the military, everything is very divided into male and female," says Blake. "It just very much sank in that this was not right for me. I was not female." For the next three years, he transitioned from female to male — an experience he says was awkward at times, but supported by the military. He also took online courses throughout his active service, and received his bachelor's degree in history.Now, at Berkeley Law, Danser says he wants to help low-income communities, like the one he grew up in. And he wants to share his experience of what it’s like to be transgender and a veteran.Read the story and see photos on Berkeley News.