Civil rights activist Terrence Roberts to address King Convocation Jan. 31

'Little Rock Nine' member to discuss social responsibility, race

Terrence Roberts

The "Little Rock Nine," a group of African-American students who were the first black students ever to attend classes at Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Civil rights activist Terrence Roberts will speak at UC Santa Cruz's 27th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Convocation on Monday, January 31.

The title of Roberts's speech is "Simple, Not Easy: Reflections on Social Responsibility and Race."

Held at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, the 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.

Campus radio station KZSC (88.1 FM) will broadcast the event live.

"Terrence Roberts offers an important message about tolerance and equality at this moment in time," said Catherine Faris, associate vice chancellor, Donor Relations and Development. "We've come a long way since the 1950s, when Roberts helped desegregate a high school, but we've still got a long way to go."

In 1957, Roberts was among a group of African-American students who were the first black students ever to attend classes at Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Roberts's 2009 memoir, Lessons from Little Rock, details his childhood in the segregated South and is a testament to the personal resolve that he and each member of the "Little Rock Nine" used to survive their first days at Central High.

The times have changed, but the echoes of Little Rock still inform our decisions today. Roberts's speeches serve to open and continue the conversation about race, one of the most salient and confusing topics of our culture.

UCSC officials will also present the third annual Tony Hill Award at the convocation. 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.

Event organizers will give the award to a nominee who demonstrates the hallmarks of Hill's life: mentor, inspirational leader, gifted mediator, and bridge-builder in the community. Past award winners are Luis Alejo, former Watsonville mayor (recently elected to state assembly), and Santa Cruz City Councilman Ryan Coonerty. The recipient of the award will receive $500 to donate to the charity of his or her choice.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Convocation was established during Robert Sinsheimer's tenure as chancellor. The convocation is a community event that reflects the partnership of the UC Santa Cruz campus and its neighbors, said Joy Lei, diversity programs and education specialist in UCSC's Office for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

"One of our office's main goals is to bring people of diverse backgrounds together—and to create a broader, inclusive community," Lei said.

In addition to UCSC, the 2010 convocation is sponsored by the City of Santa Cruz, Inner Light Ministries, the Santa Cruz Sentinel, the Good Times, and supported by the Santa Cruz branch of the NAACP.

For more information, visit the King Memorial Convocation site.

UCSC shuttles will be provided for transportation to the Civic Auditorium and return to campus after the event.