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January 30, 2006

Documentary director, community activist to speak at MLK event

By Louise Donahue

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.

Photo: Keith Beauchamp
Keith Beauchamp, above, who directed the documentary The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till, and Angela Glover Blackwell, below, will address the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Convocation.
Top photo: Thale Fastvold; bottom photo courtesy of PolicyLink
Photo: DVD of film
Photo: Angela Glover Blackwell

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. (See related story.)

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, but 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 at a free screening at 7 p.m. February 27 at the Media Theater, followed by a question-and-answer session with students, staff, and faculty. Another free screening will be held at the Del Mar Theater in downtown Santa Cruz at noon the day of the convocation. The 70-minute documentary is rated PG-13.

Tickets will be required, with details expected to be announced in early February via campus e-mail and the online Campus Calendar, at

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 2002 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, Inner Light Ministries, and the Santa Cruz Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or NAACP.

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