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Fiat Vox

Author: UC Berkeley

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Fiat Vox is a Berkeley News podcast that shares stories from students, staff and faculty at UC Berkeley. It's produced and hosted by Anne Brice in the Office of Communications and Public Affairs.
64 Episodes
"People know about Rosa Parks. People know about Martin Luther King Jr. — and they should. And they know that it was the Montgomery bus boycott that ignited a certain kind of Southern civil rights movement," says Ula Taylor, a professor in the Department of African American Studies at UC Berkeley. But, what they might not know, she says, is that it was actually the behind-the-scenes organizing effort by the Women's Political Council, led by Jo Ann Robinson, that made the boycott successful."Even though these women were not in the limelight, they were engaging in a form of leadership," says Taylor. "But because we live in a country in a culture where we oftentimes identify leadership as a talking head, we don’t understand all of the thinking that goes behind a lot of the ideas that the talking head is even articulating."Read the story and see photos on Berkeley News.
UC Berkeley's Oral History Center and KQED teamed up to record the longest interview that Jerry Brown has ever done — one that offers a first-person account of his nearly five decades in California politics. For 20 sessions, they sat at Brown’s dining room table at his ranch in Colusa County and asked him about everything from what it is was like having a father in politics to dating singer Linda Ronstadt to his views on politics today.See photos and read the transcript on Berkeley News.
Feb. 14, 2018, began like any other day for Kai Koerber. He was running late for his early morning AP English class at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. When he got there, he was handed the class's biggest assignment of the year and groaned. "At the time, I was like, 'Man, this is going to be the worst part of my day,'" says Koerber, now a first-year computer science major at UC Berkeley.After English, he had honors chemistry, followed by pre-calculus, then guitar class in the band room. At 2:18 p.m., he asked to use the restroom, but another classmate was out, so his teacher told Kai to wait. Two minutes later, the fire alarm went off. And what followed was a tragedy that his school would become known for — one that Kai would decide to speak out about, changing the narrative about the impact of gun violence on youth in the United States.At Berkeley, in between classes and studying, Kai works to promote his nonprofit and mental health curriculum — something that he's become passionate about since he survived one of the deadliest school shootings in the country.Read the transcript and see photos on Berkeley News.
After student Drew Woodson took a playwriting course with Philip Gotanda, a professor in the Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies at Berkeley, he realized he had a story to tell. Two years later, that story would become his first play, Your Friend, Jay Silverheels. “The original idea for this play came out of this frustration I was having as an actor of not being able to find monologues that really fit and felt true to who I am as a Native person,” says Woodson. “I knew I had to write this story, to get it down on paper — not only for myself as an actor, but for other Native actors who maybe felt the same way as me.”On Dec. 5, Woodson is staging a reading of Your Friend, Jay Silverheels in Durham Studio Theater in Dwinelle Hall on campus.Listen, see photos and read a transcript on Berkeley News.
Saida Dahir grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah. At first, she thought she was like everyone else. But by sixth grade, she realized she was different. Her family was from Somalia — she was born in a refugee camp in Kenya after her family fled the civil war. The more she tried to fit in, the worse she felt. But in eighth grade, when she met Mr. Brandy, a journalism and English teacher, she began to realize her own power and started writing poetry. By her senior year, she was performing her poetry at protests and rallies across the country, proudly commenting on the injustices she saw all around her.Listen, see photos and read a transcript on Berkeley News.
When UC Berkeley architect Ronald Rael took his bright pink teeter totters to the U.S.-Mexico border wall, he didn't know that what he and his team did next would go viral. He just wanted to create a moment where people on both sides of the wall felt connected to each other. “Women and children completely disempowered this wall for a moment, for 40 minutes," says Rael. "There was a kind of sanctuary hovering over this event."Read the story and see photos on Berkeley News.
"I grew up just super dirt poor ... about as poor as you can be in this country," says first-year Berkeley Law student, Blake Danser. School was where Danser felt safe, where he thrived. "And then puberty hit, and I felt weird in a way that I couldn't really identify," he says. At the time, Blake was actually Amanda — a 14-year-old self-described tomboy. After seeing a transgender character in a TV show, Danser thought that maybe that's why he felt different — because he was transgender. But a friend convinced him that he wasn't, and Danser forgot about it until years later.After high school, Danser realized he couldn't afford college, so he joined the Air Force. "In the military, everything is very divided into male and female," says Blake. "It just very much sank in that this was not right for me. I was not female." For the next three years, he transitioned from female to male — an experience he says was awkward at times, but supported by the military. He also took online courses throughout his active service, and received his bachelor's degree in history. Now, at Berkeley Law, Danser says he wants to help low-income communities, like the one he grew up in. And he wants to share his experience of what it’s like to be transgender and a veteran.Read the story and see photos on Berkeley News.
Gemma Givens, who works at UC Berkeley's International House, was adopted from Guatemala in 1990 when she was 4 months old. Her mom, Melinda, was a graduate student at Berkeley at the time. She had a simple story she would tell Gemma about her adoption. "The story was that Gemma needed a mom and I needed a child, and so we found each other. It was a good enough story for a while," says Melinda. As Gemma grew older, though, it wasn't enough. "I felt like I was foundationless, or that I was floating, or I was a ghost, or I was a genetic isolate, which, in a way, I was," Gemma says. It would lead her to Guatemala, where her search for her birth mother would reveal the corrupt business of intercountry adoption in Guatemala and inspire her to create an international community of Guatemalan adoptees.Read the story and see photos on Berkeley News.
For Martha Olney, a teaching professor of economics at UC Berkeley, coming out didn’t happen all at once. As a graduate student in 1980, she met her wife, Esther Hargis. A few of their friends knew they were together, but “it wasn’t something you told people.” Esther was a Baptist pastor, so she needed to be careful at the time to protect her career. It wasn’t until the couple decided to adopt their son, Jimmy, nearly two decades later, that they decided they had to live their lives fully out.See photos and read the story on Berkeley News.
Growing up in New York City, UC Berkeley ethnic studies professor Catherine Ceniza Choy remembers seeing a lot of nurses — dressed in their crisp white uniforms. She and her mom lived in an apartment building near several hospitals, so seeing health workers in the community wasn’t unusual.But she also noticed that many of the nurses were Filipino.Her mom was an immigrant from the Philippines. And when they’d go to Filipino events, it was common to see a lot of nurses.“I think when I was growing up, it was just part of the familiar landscape of home,” she says, “and what it was like to be in New York City. I didn’t really question it as a child. It just seemed natural or normal to me.”Years later, as a graduate student at UCLA, Choy began to wonder: Why were there so many Filipino nurses in the U.S.? What she found took her back to the early 20th century after the Philippines became a U.S. colony.Read the story and see photos on Berkeley News.
On October 11, 1923, three brothers — Hugh, Ray and Roy DeAutremont — boarded a Southern Pacific Railroad train called the Gold Special near the Siskiyou Mountains in Oregon. The trio planned to rob the mail car. But instead of making off with their fortune, they killed four people and blew up the mail car and the valuables inside. A huge manhunt followed and authorities called in an up-and-coming forensic scientist and UC Berkeley lecturer and alumnus Edward Oscar Heinrich to help solve what became known as the Last Great Train Robbery. He didn't know that the case would put him on the map as a pioneer in American criminology. And now, nearly 100 years later, Heinrich's collection of crime materials from this case — and thousands of others he worked on throughout his career — are available for research in the Bancroft Library's archives at UC Berkeley. See photos and read the story on Berkeley News.
In 1970, when Chancellor Carol Christ joined UC Berkeley's English department as an assistant professor, only 3% of the faculty on campus were women. “I always felt like a pioneer, in part, because I’m of the generation of the feminist revolution,” says Christ.In this Fiat Vox podcast episode, Christ and her longtime friend and colleague Carol Clover, a professor emerita in Scandinavian studies and film studies, discuss what it was like for women in the academy 50 years ago and how it’s changed, what makes a strong leader — and offer advice to the next generation of Berkeley women.See photos and read the transcript on Berkeley News.
When Amy Nostbakken and Nora Sadava started writing Mouthpiece six years ago, they revealed their deepest secrets to each other with the prompt: “Tell me something that you would never want anyone ever to know.” From that, they created a raw, one-hour confessional that reflects what it feels like in one woman’s head after she finds out her mother has died and that she has to deliver the eulogy the next day. Mouthpiece premiered in 2015, and four years later, Amy and Nora, who make up the Toronto-based company Quote Unquote Collective, are performing the play for the last time on March 22-24 in the Zellerbach Playhouse. It’s the last performance of Cal Performances’ 2018-19 Berkeley RADICAL Initiative’s strand “Women’s Work,” which takes a specific look at the extraordinary artistry of women who are expanding the definition of what it is to be an artist in the 21st century.“This continuum of women’s voices and their work — the work that drives them — is important to put a spotlight on,” says Sabrina Klein, director of artistic literacy at Cal Performances. “Every single one is unique. Every single one is different. But it’s not incidental that they’re connected as women across this continuum of making work — live work, new work, fresh work, continually meaningful work.” Read the story and see photos on Berkeley News.
Malika Imhotep grew up in West Atlanta, rooted in a community that she calls an "Afrocentric bubble," in a family of artisans, entrepreneurs and community organizers. Now, as a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of African American Studies at UC Berkeley, she's studying how black women and femmes make sense of themselves in a society designed, in many ways, to keep them out. "I’m interested in how people create new possibilities for themselves, either inside of mainstream society or outside of it, or underneath it or on top of it.”But she couldn't do it alone. She needed to find and nurture a community of thinkers who could aid in the development of her research and her personal journey of discovery. So, she — along with Miyuki Baker, a Ph.D. candidate in theater, dance and performances — started the Church of Black Feminist Thought.Read the story and see photos on Berkeley News.
When Karen Denton got a job in UC Berkeley's registrar's office at 20, she had one job: to remove incompletes. "I did that all day every day," she says. Her tools of the trade? A fountain pen, an inkwell, an eraser, a razor blade and a marble. At 71, Karen has been the assistant registrar for two decades and has worked in records for 49 years. And she has no plans to retire anytime soon. "Why would I retire?" she asks. "I love working here. I love the students. I love the challenge." But she will leave sometime, and before she does, she wants to have all student records — dating back to the late 1800s — digitized.Read the story and see photos on Berkeley News.
In 1849, a man named Abraham Holland packed up his things and left his life on the East Coast for California, in hopes that he’d strike it rich. The year before, gold had been discovered in the Sierra Nevada foothills, and people were coming from across the U.S. — and the world — to seek their fortune. It became known as the California Gold Rush. It marked a new set of opportunities for African American migration to California.On Saturday, Feb. 23, Berkeley staffer Gia White, who volunteers as a docent at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, will give a tour about notable African Americans — including Holland, and Berkeley alumni Ida Louise Jackson and Walter Gordon — who are buried in the cemetery. “It’s a privilege to talk about their life stories, because when are they going to be heard?" says Gia. "I feel like, you’re just doing them a little honor by talking about them again.”See photos and read the story on Berkeley News.
For Black History Month, we are resharing Fiat Vox episode #23, first published in 2018, about Clothilde Hewlett, the executive director of the Cal Alumni Association:Some people move to San Francisco for its jobs. Or its nightlife. Or its natural beauty.But Clothilde Hewlett moved for Rice-A-Roni. Hewlett was 14 years old waiting at the Canadian border with her mom and two younger sisters. They’d been there for two weeks, but things weren’t looking promising. “And at one point, my mother, out of despair, looked at me and she said, ‘Where do you wanna go?’ says Hewlett. “And all I could think of is I had a seen a commercial called Rice-A-Roni and it didn’t look like people in San Francisco were suffering. So I said, ‘San Francisco.'”Listen to Hewlett’s story — how she pulled herself out of poverty, found salvation as a student at UC Berkeley, climbed the ranks in the government and corporate America and returned to the campus, where she giving back to students who need it most.Read the story and see photos on Berkeley News.
When Erika Johnson was 7, her Ukrainian mom put her in ballet class. Although Erika didn’t have the body that most principal dancers were known for, she had the work ethic that it took to be successful. "It was never like, ‘I must handpick you and cultivate you like a rose,’ says Erika. "You know it was like, ‘If you work hard, you might get a job.’ And I was like, ‘Okay, well I’m going to work hard.’” Shaped by her ballet career, Erika is now a development associate at Berkeley. Not only has ballet has played a big role in her life — it has helped keep her connected to her Ukrainian culture.Read the story and see photos on Berkeley News.
Every morning, Marco Lindsey wakes up in East Oakland, where he was born and raised. He puts on a suit and tie, packs his briefcase, chats with his neighbors and drives to work at Berkeley Haas. It's a typical morning routine, but to Marco, it’s a lot more than that. It’s a way to show boys and young men in his community that they have possibilities. He didn't have that growing up. But his drive — and mentors who helped steer him — propelled him forward, and now he's helping others to succeed. His motto: Live your life as if your 80-year-old self is guiding you.See photos and read the story on Berkeley News.
In the summer of 1996, Will Thomas and Dave Deacy were wading in the Columbia River in Kennewick, Washington, watching the annual hydroplane races. Will kicked something with his foot, bent down and pulled something up. It was a human skull. Turns out, it was a really old skull — 9,000 years old, one of the oldest human remains found in North America. It’s a discovery that would fuel an ongoing debate between scientists and Native Americans about how ancestral remains should be treated. It also inspired Beth Piatote, an associate professor of Native American studies at UC Berkeley and a member of the Nez Perce tribe, to write the play Antíkoni. It’s a Native American version of the Greek tragedy, Antigone.See photos and read the story on Berkeley News.
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