Thursday, September 11, 2014

Exiled Black Panther to Perform, Discuss Documentary

Charlotte “Mama C” O’Neal to give musical performance and take part in screening of “Mama C: Urban Warrior in the African Bush”

A former Black Panther who went on to found a nonprofit in Tanzania while living in exile will give a free, public talk and performance at UC Merced. 

Charlotte “Mama C” O’Neal will share her story of survival and life as a Black Panther from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 23 in the Wallace-Dutra Amphitheater. 

Afterward, there'll be a reception and screening of a "Mama C:  Urban Warrior in the African Bush," a new documentary about O'Neal by filmmaker Joanne Hershfield in UC Merced’s California Room, across from the amphitheatre. Hershfield  is an award-winning filmmaker and professor of Women’s Studies and Department Head, at North Carolina State University Chapel Hill.

During the first event, O'Neal along with Tarika Lewis, Avotcja and Val Serrant will perform songs in celebration of life, art and community.  O'Neal is a world-class improvisational jazz, blues, spoken word and visual artist. She immigrated to Africa in 1971, where she and her husband co-founded the United African Alliance Community Center. Her poetry and reflections are widely published, and she is the subject of numerous books, articles, and documentaries. 

Tarika Lewis, the first female Black Panther, has toured nationally and internationally with legendary saxophonist John Handy with Class, and currently plays violin, viola and harp with SONG and the Bobby Young Project Blues Band. 

Avotcja  plays small multi-percussion, and is a popular Bay Area radio DJ as well as founder/member of Avotcja & Modúpue (the Bay Area Blues Society’s Jazz Group Of The Year in 2005 & 2010). Val Serrant, a highly skilled musician, from the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago will perform with African and steel drums.  His music reflects his rich and diverse cultural heritage.

"As a member of the Black Panther Party, I was taught the importance of building international solidarity among all people while honoring my ancestral roots. That philosophy has never changed and many of my poems and songs reflect this burning desire and mission to spread peace, love, empowerment and unity through my art,” O'Neal said.  

She has four albums to her credit, the latest being titled Nyatiti Speaks to Me. O'Neal is the first woman to play the obokano, an eight string lyre, and one of four women who plays nyatiti professionally. Both these traditional African instruments were previously taboo for women to play. 
Before and after the screening, there will be short discussion sessions with O'Neal, Tarika Lewis, Val Serrant and Avotcja.  For information on the film, please visit,

This event is sponsored by the African Diaspora Student Association at UC Merced. For further information, please contact Kim McMillon at

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Campus Ranks Among "Cool Schools" for Commitment to Sustainability

UC Merced has been ranked among the “Cool Schools” by the Sierra Club’s Sierra Magazine because of its commitment to sustainability.

The ranking, which was released this week, looked at more than 170 campuses around the country. UC Merced is ranked No. 51.

All of the UC undergraduate campuses made the list, with UC Irvine ranking No. 1.
This year’s rankings for other UC campuses:
  • UC San Diego: 17
  • UC Santa Barbara: 24
  • UC Berkeley: 32
  • UC Santa Cruz: 35
  • UC Davis: 55
  • UCLA: 60
  • UC Riverside: 90

The “Cool Schools” rankings come from a survey of sustainability practices at 173 four-year undergraduate universities in the United States. UC campuses have been routinely represented in the top 10 of the rankings since Sierra began publishing them in 2007.

UC Merced is the only campus to have every single building project LEED certified by the U.S. Green Building Council, and sustainability is part of the campus identity, grounds, facilities, maintenance and purchasing policies to recycling and reuse in and out of classrooms and labs, as well as in research and curriculum.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Cleaning up the Grasslands

The open space next between campus and Lake Yosemite seems to be a catch area for all the garbage the wind can blow. 

That’s why, on July 28, a group of volunteers spent the morning picking up trash there. 

“We met at 8 in the morning, armed with litter sticks, gloves and plastic bags, and we split up into teams and set out to three different areas,” said Maria Vega, a housing and dining employee who focused on the trash problem with 13 others. “Among the places we collected trash from were areas adjacent to the campus and the Merced Vernal Pools and Grassland Reserve.” 

These areas are all marked with signs of sensitive resource management areas, and it’s important to keep them clean because the garbage endangers wildlife and the ecosystem, and could spread to the campus’s new nature reserve, too. 

“It was evident where the trash was coming from,” Vega said. “The fence lines and grass areas inside the park were speckled with plastic bags and other litter.” 

 The volunteers -- including one faculty member, one staff member, two local high school students, a community member, four incoming freshmen, and undergrads – spread out to collect as much as they could. 

 They filled 40 bags.

“Along our paths, we came across squirrel burrows and vernal pools that were contaminated with bits of trash, big and small. Though the wind had helped us collect most of the trash along the fence lines, the burrows were a hot spot for Styrofoam cups and plates,” Vega said. 

 Plastic bags and napkins clung to spines of endemic coyote thistle growing in the dry vernal pools, and leftover picnic supplies lined the burrows. Also among the trash collected: bottles, candy wrappers, cups, sundried plastic bits and bags, beach balls, golf balls, party invitations, receipts and more.

 “We must try to be mindful of the waste each of us is responsible for,” Vega said.

Monday, May 19, 2014

UC Merced Commencement Gowns Go “Green”

When some 1,000 undergraduate students walked across the stage at the campus’s ninth and largest commencement ceremonies, there was something noticeably different from previous years.

In an effort to continue the campus’s commitment to environmental stewardship, this year’s candidates donned dark blue gowns made of recycled water bottles, giving them an extra reason to be proud of their degrees.

Each Renew gown by Herff Jones uses about 29 post-consumer plastic bottles, collectively using nearly 32,000 post-consumer plastic water bottles. After commencement, graduates could drop off their Renew gowns in specially marked bins so they can be recycled into future gowns. Graduates keep their cap and tassel to commemorate their accomplishments.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Student’s Lengthy Academic Journey Concludes at UC Merced Commencement

For Helen Dahman, college was always more marathon than sprint.
Now 73, Dahman was just out of high school when she took her first college classes. But she wasn’t ready then and instead entered the workforce, married, raised a family and volunteered at her sons’ schools.
Yet the idea of a university degree never disappeared. On May 18, Dahman concludes her personal academic marathon as the oldest student to graduate from UC Merced.
“It’s a good finish — this completes the journey,” said Dahman, who earned a bachelor’s degree in literatures and cultures last December. “It’s kind of like the candle on the cake.”
Dahman, who lives in Madera, has several reasons to feel a connection to UC’s 10th campus. She was born in Merced and the family sometimes spent time at Lake Yosemite, which borders the campus.