Black Graduation 2017

May 19th, 2017 at 7:00 pm | Zellerbach Hall

Keynote Speaker: Natalie Baszile


Natalie Baszile

Natalie is the author of Queen Sugar, which is being adapted for television by writer/director Ava DuVernay of “Selma” fame, and co-produced by Oprah Winfrey for OWN, Oprah’s television network. Natalie has a M.A. in Afro-American Studies from UCLA, and is a graduate of Warren Wilson College’s MFA Program for Writers where she was a Holden Minority Scholar. An early version of Queen Sugar won the Hurston Wright College Writer’s Award, was a co-runner up in the Faulkner Pirate’s Alley Novel-in-Progress competition, and excerpts were published in Cairn and ZYZZYVA. She has had residencies at the Ragdale Foundation where she was awarded the Sylvia Clare Brown fellowship, Virginia Center for the Arts, and Hedgebrook. Her non-fiction work has appeared in The, Mission at Tenth, and in The Best Women’s Travel Writing Volume 9. She is a former fiction editor at The Cortland Review, and is a member of the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. Natalie grew up in Southern California and lives in San Francisco with her family.

(Biography taken from



Online registration will close on May 15, 2017. 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 15 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 20- May 15th, 2017 in 660 Barrows Hall from 9-12 and 1-4 Monday through Friday. Beginning May 16th 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 5:45pm on May 19th to check in for the ceremony. We need all graduates in by 5:30pm when the doors open to the public. Looking forward to seeing you all in your caps and gowns on May 19th!  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 20

Fannie Lou Hamer Award Nominations: 2017 is a year in which we will give the Fannie Lou Hamer Award.

Speaker Auditions: We will hold auditions during RRR week (May 1-5) 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 15th.

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 email