Black Graduation 2016

May 21, 2016 at 2:00 pm | Zellerbach Hall

Keynote Speaker: Beverly Guy-Sheftall 



BEVERLY GUY-SHEFTALL is a founding director of the Women’s Research and Resource Center and an Anna Julia Cooper Professor of women’s studies at Spelman College. She is also an adjunct professor at Emory University’s Institute for Women’s Studies where she teaches graduate courses in their doctoral program.

At the age of sixteen, Guy-Sheftall entered Spelman College where she majored in English and minored in secondary education. After graduation with honors, she attended Wellesley College for a fifth year of study in English. After a year at Wellesley, she entered Atlanta University to pursue a master’s degree in English. Her thesis was entitled “Faulkner’s Treatment of Women in His Major Novels.” A year later Guy-Sheftall began her first teaching job in the Department of English at Alabama State University in Montgomery, Alabama. In 1971 she returned to her alma mater, Spelman College, and joined the English Department.

Guy-Sheftall has published a number of texts within African American and women’s studies which include the first anthology on black women’s literature, Sturdy Black Bridges: Visions of Black Women in Literature, which she coedited with Roseann P. Bell and Bettye Parker Smith; her dissertation, Daughters of Sorrow: Attitudes Toward Black Women, 1880-1920; and Words of Fire: An Anthology of African American Feminist Thought. Her most recent publication is an anthology she coedited with Rudolph P. Byrd entitled Traps: African American Men on Gender and Sexuality. She has also completed with Johnnetta Betsch Cole a monograph, Gender Talk: The Struggle for Equality in African American Communities. In 1983 she became founding editor of Sage: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women which was devoted exclusively to the experiences of African descent.

Guy-Sheftall is the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, among them a National Kellogg Fellowship; a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship for dissertations in women’s studies; and Spelman’s Presidential Faculty Award for outstanding scholarship. She is a member of the Board of Trustees at Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana. She has been involved with the national women’s studies movement since its inception and provided leadership for the establishment of the first women’s studies major at a historically black college. Beyond the academy, she has been involved in a number of advocacy organizations which include the National Black Women’s Health Project, the National Council for Research on Women, and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, on whose boards she serves. In her role as director of Spelman’s Women’s Center, she has also been involved with the development of student activism around misogynist images of Black women in hip hop as well as a broad range of social justice issues, including reproductive rights and violence against women. She teaches women’s studies courses, including feminist theory and global Black feminisms.

(Biography taken from The Feminist Press @ The City University of New York. For more information please see


Cephus Johnson (aka "Uncle Bobby") is this year's Fannie Lou Hamer Award recipient. 

Cephus Johnson studied at San Francisco State with emphasis in Ethnic/Black Studies. He is co-founder of The Love Not Blood Campaign Foundation and the Founder and CEO of The Oscar Grant Foundation. He is the Uncle of the late Oscar Grant.

Johnson has been a resource for families suffering from police violence and community violence seeking to cope with the tragedy of losing a family member in such a manner. In addition to helping families cope with the tragedy he brings families together to build bonding, support, and strength with each family to work together. He has worked with the families of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Ramarley Graham, Emmett Till, Alan Blueford, Ernest Duenez, and many other families across this country. He is a member of the Circle of Father's, which includes members such as William Bell Sr, Tracy Martin, Ron Davis, Michael Brown Sr, Simeon Wright, cousin of Emmett Till, and many others. He has appeared on Katie Couric episode, "Race In America"; MSNBC episode, "Caught on Tape"; CNN; KGO 7Live with Brian Copeland and many radio stations in the Bay Area and around the country. 

He resides in San Jose, California with his wife, Sis. Beatrice X Johnson, who is the Chief Operation Officer of the Love Not Blood Campaign Foundation. They are affectionately known as the freedom fighting Love Bugs.

(Biography adapted from the African American Community Service Agency. For more information please see






Online registration will close on May 13, 2016. Only people who have registered by this date are guaranteed to have their names and majors listed in the program. People who register after May 13 may still participate in Black Graduation, but are not guaranteed to be included in the program, nor are they guaranteed access to tickets.


As a registered participant you can  pick up two complimentary tickets April 19- May 9th, 2016 in 660 Barrows Hall from 9-12 and 1-4 Monday through Friday. Beginning May 10th the remaining tickets will go on sale and students can purchase up to 5 additional tickets at the Zellerbach Box Office on a first come, first serve basis. Graduates do not need a ticket. All guests will need tickets, including children over two years of age. Please arrive at 12:30 on May 21s to check in for the ceremony. We need all graduates in by 1 pm when the doors open to the public. Looking forward to seeing you all in your caps and gowns on May 21st!  Please note that the Department will be videotaping the ceremony and copies can be purchased a few weeks after the commencement ceremony, if you are interested.


Student Participation Opportunities:

There are several ways that students can participate in Black Graduation. Students can help select a theme, nominate someone for the Fannie Lou Hamer Award, or audition to be a speaker at Black Grad.

Theme Selection: We will solicit suggestions for this year' graduation theme in the month of March. This year you can vote for the theme via the multiple choice option on the online registration form. We will finalize the theme of the ceremony by April 15.

Fannie Lou Hamer Award Nominations: 2016 is a year in which we will give the Fannie Lou Hamer Award. 

Speaker Auditions: We will hold auditions during RRR week (May 2-6) for the following four speaking opportunities:

  • Welcome remarks: a 2-3 minute speech; restricted to declared African American Studies majors
  • Theme address: 3-5 minute speech on the theme selected for this year's ceremony
  • Introduction of the keynote speaker: 1-2 minute speech introducing the keynote speaker for this year's ceremony, including some biographical details
  • Introduction of the Fannie Lou Hamer Award recipient: 1-2 minute speech introducing the recipient of this year's award, including some biographical details

The audition committee will include faculty, staff, and AAS majors. Students selected for speaking opportunities will, if necessary, be given feedback to assist in the revision of their remarks. Student speakers will be required to submit a finalized copy of their speech by May 13th.

Background Information:

As always, Black Graduation is planned and hosted by the staff and faculty in the Department of African American Studies as the primary graduation ceremony for students earning undergraduate and graduate degrees in African American and African Diaspora Studies. While our first responsibility is to serve our majors, we are happy to open up the ceremony to students graduating from other programs as a service to the broader Cal community.


For any questions about the Black Graduation planning process, please