By Letisia Marquez
UCLA alumna Elaine Brown, a former Black Panther leader and an
advocate for radical reform of the criminal justice system, will
deliver the 2008 Thurgood Marshall Lecture at UCLA on Thursday, April 17.
The event, which is named for former U.S. Supreme Court Justice
Thurgood Marshall and benefits the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African
American Studies at UCLA, will begin with a reception at 5:30 p.m.,
followed by dinner and a program at 7 p.m. in the Grand Horizon Room
at UCLA's Covel Commons.
"As a UCLA student in 1969, Ms. Brown was present at the infamous
Campbell Hall shootings, which erupted out of a meeting to negotiate
the leadership and direction of what later that year would become
UCLA's Center for Afro-American Studies," said Darnell Hunt, director
of the Bunche Center and a UCLA sociology professor. "It is
particularly fitting that we should welcome back Ms. Brown to UCLA
this year, as the struggle to enroll more black students at UCLA
continues amidst some recent successes, and as the student-initiated
proposal that evolved into the Bunche Center approaches its 40th anniversary."
Each year, a prominent leader in the African American community is
invited to speak at the Thurgood Marshall Lecture and Dinner on Law
and Human Rights. The event honors the legacy and contributions of
Justice Marshall, whose record of civil rights advocacy is
inextricably linked to the African American struggle for social and
economic justice. Past lecturers have included civil rights leader
Julian Bond, law professor and author Lani Guinier, and the late
attorney and UCLA alumnus Johnnie L. Cochran Jr.
Over the last four decades, Brown, who grew up in the ghettos of
north Philadelphia, has organized significant efforts aimed at
progressive change in the United States.
As an active member of the Black Panther Party from 1968 to 1978, she
helped establish the organization's free legal aid program; wrote and
performed songs, including "The Black Panther National Anthem"; and
edited the party's official newspaper. In 1971, she became the first
female member of the party's central committee, and from 1974 to
1977, she served as the party's chairperson.
Brown is the author of several books, including the 1993 memoir, "A
Taste of Power: A Black Woman's Story," which has been optioned by
HBO in connection with the network's six-part series titled "The
Black Panthers," currently in development.
Much of Brown's recent work has focused on reforming the nation's
criminal justice system. The Atlanta resident has authored and edited
several books on the plight of prisoners and the injustices of the
current system. In 1998, she co-founded the Atlanta-based Mothers
Advocating Juvenile Justice, a grassroots organization with more than
300 members that advocates on behalf of teenagers prosecuted as adults.
Brown also is the founder of Fields of Flowers Inc., an educational
nonprofit that serves disadvantaged children.
For more information on the awards dinner, the public should call
The Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA,
established in 1969, is ranked among the nation's top academic
research centers in African American studies. The center conducts and
sponsors multidisciplinary research on the African American
experience, supports the bachelor's and master's degree programs in
Afro-American studies, facilitates scholarly activities for faculty
and students, administers undergraduate scholarship programs for
students majoring in Afro-American studies, and sponsors community