Documentary director, activist to address King Convocation Feb. 28

Keith Beauchamp, the filmmaker drawing acclaim for The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till, and Angela Glover Blackwell, founder and CEO of the national advocacy group PolicyLink, will speak at UCSC's Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Convocation February 28.

Held at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, the annual convocation will begin at 7 p.m. The event, which is free and open to the public, is part of the campus celebration of Black History Month.

Beauchamp's documentary focuses on the 1955 case in which a 14-year-old Chicago boy visiting relatives in Mississippi was murdered for whistling at a white woman in a store. The brutality of the case shocked the world and is considered by many to be a turning point in the African American struggle for civil rights.

"Emmett Till's murder, Emmett Till's case was the catalyst of the American civil rights movement," Beauchamp said in an ABC News interview ( in May 2005. "It was because of him that young Martin Luther King decided to take on the Montgomery bus boycott. It was because of him that Rosa Parks decided not to get up from her seat that day."

Two men were tried and acquitted of Till's murder by an all-white jury. It wasn't until 2004 that the Justice Department reopened the murder case. At the time, the department gave much of the credit for reopening the case to the years of research done by Beauchamp for the documentary. Beauchamp said he believes at least 14 people may have been involved in the kidnapping and murder of Till and that five of them are still alive.

The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till has been well received by critics. It placed third in a recent San Francisco Chronicle "Critical Consensus" listing of current films as reviewed by major American film critics, after Ballet Russes (first) and Brokeback Mountain (second) and ahead of Pride & Prejudice.

Beauchamp will introduce his film and answer questions at two free screenings, one on campus and one in downtown Santa Cruz. The on-campus screening will be at 7 p.m. February 27 in the UC Santa Cruz Media Theater. The downtown showing will be at noon on February 28, the day of the convocation, at the Del Mar Theater in Santa Cruz. While the screenings are free, priority seating will be given to those with tickets. Ticket registration is available online at or by calling (831) 459-5003. The 70-minute documentary is rated PG-13.

Angela Glover Blackwell's wide-ranging PolicyLink organization has been active in the post-Hurricane Katrina rebuilding effort, stressing the importance of involving evacuees and residents in the rebuilding. At no charge, PolicyLink is consulting with the Louisiana Recovery Authority on housing and other rebuilding issues, and developing a media and communications strategy to connect displaced residents to services and information.

The organization, with the motto of "Lifting Up What Works," collaborates with partners on topics as varied as equitable development and community strategies to improve health.

PolicyLink is the latest step in a long career of activism and community-building for Blackwell. A lawyer, she first drew attention as founder of the Oakland Urban Strategies Council, focusing on neighborhood revitalization. From 1977 to 1987, she was a partner at Public Advocates, a nationally known public interest law firm. Blackwell also served as senior vice president of the Rockefeller Foundation, overseeing the foundation's domestic and cultural divisions, and developed the foundation's building democracy division, which focused on race and policy.

She is coauthor of the book Searching for the Uncommon Common Ground: New Dimensions on Race in America (W. W. Norton & Company, 2002). Blackwell's coauthors are Stewart Kwoh and Manuel Pastor, UCSC professor of Latin American and Latino studies, who will serve as emcee of the King convocation.

In addition to UCSC, the 2006 Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Convocation is sponsored by the City of Santa Cruz, the Santa Cruz Sentinel, KUSP Radio, The Nickelodeon and Del Mar Theaters, and the Santa Cruz Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or NAACP.