Past Forums

2018 — “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for”: Grassroots Action and Emerging Leadership

This political and historical moment calls for each of us to respond by addressing injustice and working collectively towards justice. Poet June Jordan’s words remind us that as we look towards midterm elections and electoral mobilization, we also nurture our own roles as leaders and look to our own communities for leadership.  

The 8th annual CDS Forum takes inspiration and hope from both past and present-day movements that address intersections of immigration, racial justice, incarceration, education, disability, and more. The Forum will engage our communities in dialogue, inquiry, and in sharing resources for action. As a community, we will ask: How can we work collectively to both elect leaders to represent us, and also develop our own leadership? What can youth-led movements, past and present, teach us about our own leadership and the potential of our communities? What are the roles of creativity, love, and critical hope in fueling ourselves and our commitments to action?


Yosimar Reyes

Nationally acclaimed poet, educator, performance artist and public speaker.

Mai Yang Vang

Executive Director of the Buck Scholars Association, co-founder of Hmong Innovating Politics (HIP), first Hmong elected official in Sacramento, and USF Alum.

Marilyn Hollinquest and Anayvette Martinez

Co-founders of Radical Monarchs, whose mission is to “create opportunities for young girls of color to form fierce sisterhood, celebrate their identities and contribute radically to their communities.”

Stacey Milbern

Disability justice thought leader, community organizer, and former appointed advisor to the Obama administration

2015 — Stones of Hope

5th Annual Critical Diversity Studies Forum "Stones of Hope: Non-Violent Activism Built on Legacy and Imagination", recalls Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s decree to “hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope,” and seeks to bring our diverse communities together to consider: How can we effectively stand up to our huge social problems? What can past struggles teach us? And how might necessity and our moral imaginations help us invent new tools and practices to intelligently, creatively address the issues we face today?

The forum featured speakers Nicole Lim, Jeff Chang, and Danny Glover with performances and activist sessions to help participants begin re-imagining possibilities and advance towards a more human and just future at the University of San Francisco and beyond.


Danny Glover

Transformative Dr. Martin Luther King and the Inconvenient Hero

This year's College of Arts and Science Dean's Lecture discussed how Dr. Martin Luther King's legacy of non-violent activism was currently taking shape in the Bay Area, and beyond. Drawing from his own experiences as an artist and activist, Mr. Glover challenged and inspired USF and local community members to, in Dr. King's words, "let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California" and "from every state and every city," to change the world from here.

A native San Franciscan, Mr. Glover overcame a struggle with dyslexia by building his confidence and excelling in mathematics as a young man.

He studied economics at San Francisco State University, where he joined the Black Students Union, a group that was pivotal in establishing the country’s first college of ethnic studies and creating intersections between the campus and the community.

It was his time as a college student that ignited his passion for social justice causes.

As his success and notoriety grew as an actor, so too did his social and philanthropic efforts. In 1994, Mr. Glover traveled to South Africa to urge its citizens to participate in that country’s first fully democratic national election.

He is respected for his wide-reaching advocacy for economic justice, access to health care, and education programs in the United States and Africa.

He is a public voice on issues involving educational opportunities for underserved communities, global human rights, and AIDS.

Mr. Glover served as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Program from 1998-2004 and currently serves as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, where he continues to focus on issues of poverty, disease and economic development in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

Jeff Chang

Who We Be: The Culture Wars + Our Resistance

Over the past half-century, the U.S. had seen profound demographic and cultural change. But racial progress still seemed distant. Resegregation was the norm. The culture wars flared as hot as ever. How could the response be in order to move all of us towards freedom?

Jeff Chang has written extensively on culture, politics, the arts, and music.

His first book, "Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation" garnered many honors, including the American Book Award and the Asian American Literary Award.

He edited the book, "Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop".His new book, "Who We Be: The Colorization of America" was released on St. Martin's Press in October 2014.

He is currently at work on two other book projects: Youth (Picador Big Ideas/Small Books series), and a biography of Bruce Lee (Little, Brown).

Jeff has been a USA Ford Fellow in Literature and a winner of the North Star News Prize. He was named by The Utne Reader as one of "50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World". With H. Samy Alim, he was the 2014 winner of the St. Clair Drake Teaching Award at Stanford University.

Jeff co-founded "CultureStr/ke" and "ColorLines". He has written for The Nation, the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Believer, Foreign Policy, N+1, Mother Jones, Salon, Slate, Buzzfeed, and Medium, among many others. Born and raised in Honolulu, Hawai’i, he is a graduate of ‘Iolani School, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of California at Los Angeles. He currently serves as the Executive Director of the Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford University.

Nicole Myers-Lim

Education and Resistance: Including Native Perspectives in the Dialogue

Nicole's presentation explored how California Native voices had been denied through the history of genocide and colonization. Today, the California Indian Museum and Cultural Center and community advocates are working to re-frame California tribal legacies, incorporate oral histories and revise curriculum to address contemporary issues for California tribal communities.

Nicole Lim is Pomo from Northern California. She received her Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of California at Berkeley and a Juris Doctorate from the University of San Francisco, School of Law. She has worked for the National Indian Justice Center (NIJC) and the California Indian Museum and Cultural Center (CIMCC) over the past twenty years. She was an assistant professor of Ethnic Studies in the Native American program at Sacramento State University from 2002-2006. She is currently a staff attorney and a trainer for NIJC’s regional and on-site training programs specializing in Federal Indian Law.

She is also the executive director of CIMCC, where she directs programs for education reform, exhibit development, native language revitalization, and tribal youth enrichment. In 2014 she was appointed to the 4th District Agricultural Association, Sonoma-Marin Fair Board and serves as the Co-Chair of the government relations committee for the California Association of Museums.

Idris Ackamoor

"Ritual Of The Collective Breath"

"Ritual of the Collective Breath" paid homage to the grassroots national uprising that had been precipitated by the deaths of African American men and young men of color at the hands of police. It was a ritual to send out positive musical vibrations for the collective healing and “breathing in one complete breath” for all Americans of conscience who abhor the violence plaguing our communities from within and without.

Idris Ackamoor is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, actor, tap dancer, and director. He is the Co-Artistic Director of the celebrated San Francisco performance company Cultural Odyssey.

He is also Artistic Director of the legendary world music/jazz ensemble THE PYRAMIDS which just returned from a 32 - day European tour throughout 10 countries! Mr. Ackamoor has been honored with TWO Lifetime Achievement Awards for his extraordinary musical and theatrical contributions. The most recent was presented in January 2012 by the renowned BBC radio personality Gilles Peterson at the Worldwide Awards Show in London.

2014 — Dis\Placement

The 4th Annual USF Critical Diversity Forum, “Dis/Placements" coincided with the anniversaries of several events which activated seismic shifts in US society: the centenary of the beginning of World War I, the 50th anniversary of the official commencement of US military involvement in Vietnam, and the 50th anniversary of the US Civil Rights Act and our War on Poverty. These anniversaries offered us an occasion to consider and explore how social events — i.e., President Obama’s June 2014 vow to employ executive authority to expedite immigration reform, the Isla Vista killings in May 2014 and the anti-misogyny campaigns this tragedy inspired, and the concurrent “urban renewal” and anti-gentrification movements produced by the Northern California technology boom — are simultaneously stirring up the social order, displacing populations.

Speakers & Performers Bios

Gordon Chin (housing activist), Adriana Camarena (Unsettlers), Rhodessa Jones (Cultural Odyssey) with performances by The Medea Project: Theater for Incarcerated Women.

2013 —Dreaming On

This forum reflected upon the vision Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of fifty years ago—a dream for a nation united in equality and freedom—and explored continuing struggles to redefine and realize the Dream. Participants considered how the Dream has manifested today, where we have failed, and what remains to be done.

Watch the video


Awele Makeba

Awele Makeba has mesmerized audiences around the world including the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The Musikverein Vienna, Tsinchu Teacher’s College in Taiwan, Suriname (U.S. Dept. of State Tour), Russia, Australia, France and Canada.

Awele (ah WAY lay) is an award winning and internationally known storyteller/teaching artist, literacy specialist, and recording artist recognized as a “truth teller," an artist for social change, and someone who sparks "aha!" moments. She researches, writes and performs hidden African American history, folklore, and personal tales. She provides opportunities for audiences to grapple with the meaning of their own lives as they make meaning of past lives. She has made it her life’s work to tell history through the words of its silenced and oft-forgotten witnesses. Awele uses art to catalyze deep conversations about race, our common humanity, and our vision of a just, humane, multiracial society. Awele teaches through performance and she animates democracy through her art.

She has written two one-woman shows, Rage Is Not A 1-Day Thing!: The Untaught History of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and I’m Not Getting On Until Jim Crow Gets Off in which she tells the story of the 1955-56 Montgomery bus boycott, watershed moment in U. S. history through the eyes of four women, Claudette Colvin, Mary Louise Smith, Rosa Parks, and JoAnn Robinson. Awele’s story, “The Story of Claudette Colvin,” is featured on the Music for Little People benefit recording, This Land is Your Land, for the Southern Poverty Law Center. Featured artists include Danny Glover, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Taj Mahal, Willie Nelson, The Neville Brothers, and others. She is also the featured storyteller on Oregon Public Radio’s radio series and CD The Undiscovered Explorer: Imagining York with Danny Glover as the narrator. Other award winning CDs include: Tell That Tale Again and Trailblazers: African Americans in the California Gold Rush. Film credits include Supervisor Ella Hill Hutch in the Oscar award winning film, MILK directed by Gus Van Sant starring Sean Penn. Awele is a founding member of Vukani Mawethu, a South African Freedom Song Choir based in Oakland, CA

Sandra R. Hernández

Sandra R. Hernández is chief executive officer of The San Francisco Foundation. Dr. Hernández is a graduate of Yale University, Tufts School of Medicine, and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Prior to becoming CEO of the Foundation, she served as the director of public health for the City and County of San Francisco. She is an assistant clinical professor at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) School of Medicine and maintains an active clinical practice at San Francisco General Hospital in the AIDS clinic.

Dr. Hernández currently serves on the boards of Blue Shield of California, the Blue Shield of California Foundation, First Republic Bank, Mills College, and the Center for Investigative Reporting. She is also a trustee of the Western Asbestos Settlement Trust and a member of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco’s Economic Advisory Council, the Public Policy Institute of California Statewide Leadership Council, the Yale University Council, the Fort Winfield Scott Federal Advisory Committee, the UCSF Chancellor’s Advisory Board, and the UCSF Clinical and Translational Science Institute Advisory Board.

Her prior affiliations include President Clinton’s Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Healthcare Industry; the Council on Foundations; the Institute of Medicine’s Committees on the Consequences of Uninsurance and the Implementation of Antiviral Medication Strategies for an Influenza Pandemic; the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Public Policy Committee; and Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government Executive Session on Philanthropy. Dr. Hernández also co-chaired San Francisco’s Universal Healthcare Council.

Jose Antonio Vargas

Jose Antonio Vargas is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, filmmaker, and the founder of Define American, a campaign that seeks to elevate the conversation around immigration.

In June 2011, the New York Times Magazine published a groundbreaking essay he wrote in which he revealed and chronicled his life in America as an undocumented immigrant, stunning media and political circles and attracting worldwide coverage. A year later, he appeared on the cover of TIME magazine internationally with fellow undocumented immigrants as part of a follow-up cover story. Since then, he has testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on immigration reform, and written and directed Documented, a documentary film on his undocumented experience. It world premiered in June 2013 as the centerpiece of the AFIDOCS film festival in Washington, D.C. He was a senior contributing editor at the Huffington Post, where he launched the Technology and College sections. Prior to that, he covered tech and video game culture, HIV/AIDS in the nation’s capital, and the 2008 presidential campaign for the Washington Post, and was part of the team that won a Pulitzer Prize for covering the Virginia Tech massacre. In 2007, Politico named him one of 50 Politicos to Watch. His 2006 series on HIV/AIDS in Washington, D.C. inspired a feature-length documentary — The Other City — which he co-produced and wrote. It world premiered at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival and aired on Showtime. In 2010, he wrote an exclusive profile of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg for the New Yorker.

The media’s evolution, and the breakdown of barriers between print and broadcast journalism, has guided his nearly 13-year reporting career. He’s written for daily newspapers (Philadelphia Daily News, San Francisco Chronicle) and national magazines (The Atlantic, Rolling Stone) and has appeared on several national and international television and radio programs, including Nightline, The O’Reilly Factor, and The Colbert Report. On HuffPost, he created the blog Technology as Anthropology, which focuses on tech’s impact on people and how we behave.

He taught a class on “Storytelling 2.0” at Georgetown University and served on the advisory board for the Knight-Batten Award for Innovations in Journalism, housed at American University. A very proud alumnus of Mountain View High School (‘00) and San Francisco State University (‘04), he loves jazz, hip-hop and anything by Gershwin, and worships at the altars of Altman, Almodovar, Didion, Baldwin and Orwell.

He dreamed of one day living in Manhattan after he saw Woody Allen’s version of it. He currently resides in Manhattan.

2012 — Homegrown in California: Exploring Conflicts & Coalitions Across Difference

This forum commemorated coalition-building anniversaries and featured keynote: Christine Chavez. Home Grown in California commemorated anniversaries around interracial coalition building and conflict. These anniversaries include the 50th anniversary of the UFW (United Farm Workers)/AFL-CIO recognizing the important work of a variety of groups including Mexican and Filipino farm laborers and organizers, the 30th anniversary of the Vincent Chin murder that brought together Asian Americans as a pan-ethnic group, and the 20th anniversary of the Rodney King verdict and events in LA.


Frank H. Wu

Frank H. Wu began his service as Chancellor & Dean of University of California Hastings College of Law in July 2010. He was a member of the faculty at Howard University, the nation’s leading historically black college/university, for a decade. He also served as Dean of Wayne State University Law School in his hometown of Detroit, and he has been a visiting professor at George Washington University, University of Maryland, University of Michigan, an adjunct professor at Columbia University, and a teaching fellow at Stanford University. Chancellor Wu is the author of Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White, which was immediately reprinted in its hardcover edition, and co-author of Race, Rights and Reparation: Law and the Japanese American Internment, which received a major grant from the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund. Prior to his academic career, Chancellor Wu held a clerkship with the late U.S. District Judge Frank J. Battisti in Cleveland and practiced law with the firm of Morrison & Foerster in San Francisco.

Francisco Herrera

Francisco Herrera is a cultural worker, a community organizer, singer / songwriter and theologian who has devoted his life to service to his community. His music is a form of public art, sung in churches, plazas, schools, picket lines, meetings and everywhere his songs will provide inspiration and hope. His unique voice captures the essence of “Chicano Soul” that blends the soulful inspiration of rhythm and blues with the earthy ranchero crooners of Mexico. Francisco also has a masters in Theology, which enriches his music as a Liturgical Musician for many types of ritual and has thirty years experience as a performer of children’s music as well.

Christine Chavez

Christine Chavez has a made a lifetime commitment to public service, civil rights and the labor movement. Born in Delano, California, Christine Chavez was surrounded by the farm worker movement. For years, she worked with the United Farm Workers Union, the organization her grandfather Cesar Chavez helped to co-found 40 years ago. For eight years, Christine Chavez served as the UFW’s Political Director. While there, her responsibilities included raising public awareness to protect the civil rights of farm workers and the larger immigrant community. Recently, Christine Chavez joined Rev. Al Sharpton to announce the formation of the Latino and African American Leadership Alliance. Troubled by the escalating violence between Latinos and African Americans, Chavez worked with the Reverend to organize a march to correspond with the Watts riots of 40 years ago. The Alliance will also sponsor community forums, outreach to schools and enlist the help of policymakers to further this important cause. Christine’s work is based on the values passed down to her from her grandfather: the fight for civil rights, social justice and labor equality.

DJ Marlino

DJ Marlino, “The Five Foota Funk”, a 23-year veteran to the DJing game, brings an aggressive, hard hitting, head nodding, hands in the air, party rocking set to every dance floor or airwave he encounters. He has worked at WILD 94.9, was an On-Air Personality and Mixshow DJ at Jammin Z90.3 FM in San Diego and has opened up at several concerts for various artists such as Ice Cube, Westside Connection, Naughty By Nature, Xzibit, Destiny’s Child, and many more, and has headlined specialty parties like the Maxim Party at the Harris Rincon Casino.

2011 — Invisible Cities: A Forum on Racial, Economic, and Environmental Justice in America

Forum focused on environmental justice and issues of diversity.


Anthony Khalil and Tracy Zhu

Anthony Khalil, Heron’s Head Park Naturalist and Tracy Zhu former EcoCenter Program Manager will represent Literacy for Environmental Justice (LEJ). Their presentation titled “Open Space Equity and Environmental Justice in San Francisco” is designed to acknowledge the history and legacies of the environmental movement. They will critically address how discrepancies in open space access across the San Francisco landscape affect efforts to provide people of color and low-income communities a welcoming and inclusive arena to participate in the environmental movement. LEJ’s work will present the on-the-grounds solutions for creating a more inclusive arena for youth and the Bayview Hunter’s Point community.

Steve Lerner

Steve Lerner is the Research Director at Commonweal, a nonprofit health and environmental research institute located in Bolinas, CA. Author of numerous books, his talk will focus on his most recent book, Sacrifice Zones: The Front Lines of Toxic Chemical Exposure in the United States (2010). Across the US, thousands of people, most of them in low-income or minority communities, live next to heavily polluting industrial sites. Lerner tells the stories of 12 communities that rose up to fight industries and military bases causing disproportionately high levels of chemicals. He argues that residents these sacrifice zones, tainted with chemical pollutants, need additional regulatory protections.

Paul S. Flores

Paul S. Flores is a published poet, playwright, novelist and nationally prominent spoken word artist. Flores' past performance projects have taken him from HBO's Def Poetry to Cuba, Mexico and El Salvador. He is the co-founder of Youth Speaks and currently teaches Hip-Hop Theater and Spoken Word at the University of San Francisco. Flores' plays include FEAR OF A BROWN PLANET directed by Tony Garcia, REPRESENTA! directed by Danny Hoch, YOU'RE GONNA CRY directed by Brian Freeman, and PLACAS directed by Michael John Garcés. Paul was recently named the San Francisco Weekly’s 2011 Best Politically Active Hip-Hop Performance Artist.