Robert P. Moses, a leading Civil Rights activist and a strong voice for educational reform, will deliver the keynote address at the 29th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Convocation.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held at 7 p.m. February 6 at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium.

Moses’s talk will describe “quality public school education as a constitutional right.”

He argues that economic access, which he has called the most urgent issue affecting poor people and people of color, requires that all citizens possess a strong foundation in math and science.

“I believe the absence of math literacy in urban and rural communities throughout this country is an issue as urgent as the lack of registered Black voters in Mississippi in 1961,” Moses wrote in his 2001 co-authored book, Radical Equations: Civil Rights from Mississippi to the Algebra Project,

With this philosophy in mind, Moses began to work 31 years ago for the creation of the Alphabet Project, an initiative intended to bring about “sustainable, student centered models” for school reform building on coalitions of stakeholders within local communities, especially in underserved areas.

The Algebra Project puts a premium on math skills and training as a way of opening doors for students hoping to make their way in an increasingly competitive job marketplace.

 Drawing on the organizational strategies of the Civil Rights movement, the project fosters collaboration between students, parents and teachers to teach middle-school algebra as a key to future success.

His focus on education is part of a lifetime commitment Moses has made to civil rights. He served as a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s (SNCC) Mississippi Project in the 1960s, and was an architect of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Later, he received a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship for his work.

The presentation of the fifth annual Tony Hill Award will be another convocation highlight. Hill, a beloved community leader and mentor whose gifts as a mediator promoted the causes of justice and equality, died in 2007. He was a tireless volunteer who served on the convocation planning committee for many years.

The Tony Hill Award committee will give the award to a nominee who demonstrates the hallmarks of Hill's life. Hill was known as a mentor, inspirational leader, gifted mediator, and bridge-builder in the community. This year's recipient is Stephen Nelson, who is being honored for his empathy and work ethic in his outreach to clients at the Homeless Services Center in Santa Cruz. 

Last year’s winner was Deutron Kebebew, former foster child and a tireless advocate for teens and children.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Convocation is a popular community event that reflects the partnership of the UC Santa Cruz campus and its neighbors. Sponsors include the city of Santa Cruz, the Good Times, the Santa Cruz Sentinel, the NAACP and Inner Light Ministries.

For more information, visit the King Memorial Convocation site at events.ucsc.edu/mlk. UCSC shuttles will be provided for students’ transportation to the Civic Auditorium and return to campus after the event.