Helen Edison Lecture Series and UC San Diego Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Present Dr. Bernice A. King

By Nathan Young


The Helen Edison Lecture Series, hosted annually by UC San Diego Division of Extended Studies, has a long history of making an impact. The memorable events are known for bringing poignant and influential speakers to the stage—luminaries such as Al Gore, Terence Blanchard, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

As part of Extended Studies' commitment to engaging with critical issues and inspiring the community, this season's Helen Edison Lecture will continue its tradition by welcoming civil rights leader, Dr. Bernice A. King, on Friday, May 17, 2024.

Dr. King's talk promises to be a thought-provoking exploration of her legacy, activism, and the relevance of her work in today's world.

The event will be hosted in partnership with the UC San Diego Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and ArtPower at UC San Diego. This cross-campus collaboration presents a unique opportunity to extend Dr. King’s appearance to the broadest campus and community audiences.

To get a sense of what to expect from the upcoming event and how Dr. King’s talk may affect the UC San Diego campus and local region, we talked to Andrew Waltz, Director of Arts Management at UC San Diego Extended Studies, representing the Helen Edison Lecture Series, and Dr. Becky R. Petitt, Vice Chancellor of the UC San Diego Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. They shared reflections about the upcoming event and how the principles spread by the King family are active and relevant today.

Dr. Bernice A. King: A Voice for Justice and Equality

Dr. Bernice King is probably best known for being the daughter of civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. Yet she has put together an impressive résumé in her own right.

As the CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center For Nonviolent Social Change (also known as The King Center), she has continued her parents' legacy of advocacy for justice, equality, and nonviolent social change.

In her role as CEO of The King Center, she has advanced this work through education, advocacy, and calls for policy reform.

Under her leadership, the Center has reached over 500,000 people around the world through signature initiatives, such as the immersive Nonviolence365™️ (NV365) Education & Training, which brings the Kingian philosophy and practical nonviolence training to corporations, groups, organizations, or learning institutions. The trainings are designed to “enable groups and individuals to understand how to apply nonviolence for personal and organizational change as well as create cultures of belonging.”

Another valuable initiative of the King Center under Dr. Bernice King's leadership is the Beloved Community Leadership Academy. This is leadership training for young people which “is committed to developing the next generation of compassionate, courageous, conscientious, nonviolent leaders who think critically in solving pressing world issues.”

Dr. King's influence extends beyond her role at The King Center, too.

An architect of significant events, Dr. King spearheaded the historic 'Let Freedom Ring and Call to Action' event on the 50th Anniversary of her father's iconic March on Washington and 'I Have a Dream' speech. The event included then-President Obama, former Presidents Clinton and Carter, and members of Congress, as well as other international leaders.

Dr. King is a graduate of Spelman College with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and of Emory University, with a Master of Divinity and Doctorate of Law. She has also received an honorary Doctorate of Divinity degree from Wesley College.

Even before assuming her leadership role at the King Center, Dr. King was renowned nationally and internationally for her oratory skills, notably delivering a speech at the United Nations at the age of 17.

In one of her more poignant and well-known addresses, she implored the audience to embrace the "fierce urgency of now,” in standing up against injustice and to work tirelessly to build a more just, humane, and peaceful world.

“Everyday, we must move in the 'fierce urgency of now.’ Because, everyday darkness looms. Everyday, darkness threatens to destroy the fiber of humanity and to strip us of the dignity of our personhood. Everyday, we have the chance to drive out darkness with light and hate with love.”

“As we embrace the fierce urgency of now, love requires that, in the words of my father, ‘we must FOREVER conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.’ Dignity and discipline must be constant, consistent and unrelenting. Protest, we MUST. But we must protest with dignity and discipline. This keeps us rooted in love, focused on the ultimate goal, and committed to noncooperation with evil.”

Raising the Bar of the Helen Edison Lecture Series

The decision to invite Bernice King as a featured speaker was a natural one for the organizers of the Helen Edison Lecture Series, which is housed within UC San Diego Extended Studies.

“Reverend King is effecting change in our time and is such an important, natural choice for the Helen Edison Lecture series to feature," said Andrew Waltz, Director of Arts Management at UC San Diego Division of Extended Studies. "She is not only a globally recognized thought leader advancing humanitarian issues but is also so uniquely connected to our American history and the insights of Martin Luther King, Jr. She can tell our complex shared story in an indelible way.”

The format of the event will primarily be a keynote lecture followed by a moderated Q&A session, attendees have the opportunity to submit questions in advance, ensuring a diverse range of topics are covered.

Dr. Becky R. Petitt, Vice Chancellor for UC San Diego Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, who will moderate the Q&A portion, shared what she's most looking forward to:

“I appreciate the way Dr. Bernice King reminds us that her mother, Coretta Scott King, was also a prominent leader in the Civil Rights Movement. And that she was not 'behind' her father, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., she was beside him, and was a peace and justice advocate before she met her father," said Dr. Petitt. "I also appreciate that Dr. Bernice King focuses on ‘love’ and fighting for the world we want to live in–what we are fighting FOR–not just what we are fighting against.”

When asked what about Dr. King resonates with Dr. Petitt the most, she expressed, "Her message of hope.”

UC San Diego's Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Dr. Petitt is a fitting host and facilitator for the Helen Edison Lecture with Dr. King.

In her role as the Vice Chancellor of the UC San Diego Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) she’s responsible for a team that, in her words, "provides leadership to ensure that UC San Diego is a community where equity and inclusion are central to our decision making, our systems, our policies, and our norms.”

Established in 2014, the stated mission of the department is to “provide leadership, build capacity, and forge partnerships to facilitate shared responsibility for creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive campus in which students, faculty, and staff can thrive.’”

The focus of the department is on developing systems of accountability to ensure access, equity, and belonging are available for all.

Much of this is done through developing partnerships and offering training to other departments on campus to make it a collective goal. This approach builds capacity and facilitates a shared responsibility toward creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive campus.

“To advance EDI requires partnership and collaboration because EDI is everyone’s responsibility,” said Dr. Petitt. “This is why we emphasize providing leadership, building capacity, and forging partnerships within the mission.”

This work is personal for Dr. Petitt.

“My mother was a community leader and activist,” said Petitt. “I have a brother who is deaf, and watching my mother advocate for him taught me the importance and value of inclusion. She was not someone who would take “no” for an answer. She was a fierce, unwavering, and quite frankly–impatient–advocate.”

Her commitment to fostering inclusive environments and advancing diversity initiatives continues to make a significant impact on the UC San Diego campus, in the world of higher education, and beyond.

A Plan for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Excellence

Dr. Petitt admits that the work of EDI is a big job on a campus as large and varied as the UC San Diego campus, with all its many departments and initiatives.

“The most significant challenge is the ongoing transformation of an enterprise the size of UC San Diego,” she said.

In addition to the main campus with all its professors, instructors, students and administrators, the portfolio that the Office of the VC-EDI manages also includes other parts of the university, such as UC San Diego Health, Health Sciences, and Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The work requires buy-in from the different partners to ensure they play their part towards diversity, equity, and inclusion in their own sphere of influence.

“Everyone thrives when we can fully participate in the University,” adds Petitt.

At the heart of the EDI program lies the Strategic Plan for Inclusive Excellence, a comprehensive roadmap crafted to shape the future of the university towards realizing its EDI goals.

"[The Strategic Plan] utilizes a framework of regular engagement with leaders to support them in driving strategic EDI action," Petitt further explained.

"The plan was developed with extensive input from the campus community,” continued Petitt. "It serves as a ‘roadmap' to guide the university in becoming an exemplar of inclusion, equity, and belonging.”

Structured around three core tenets of Access and Success, Climate, and Accountability the plan establishes guideposts for achieving inclusive excellence on campus.

The strategic plan also includes a number of focused initiatives toward the goals of the Office of EDI. These include the Leaders in Equity and Diversity (LEAD) Fellows program, which trains representatives to serve as agents in their respective departments, and the Academic Excellence Initiatives, which focuses on educational equity and access for different underrepresented groups on campus.

"These initiatives recognize the importance of transforming the institution to serve our students," said Petitt.

The Helen Edison Lecture Series collaboration this season fits within the larger EDI strategic plan, underscoring the importance of encouraging respectful and open dialogue and highlighting and supporting programs and individuals who exemplify the UC San Diego Principles of Community.

Making the Helen Edison Lecture Series Accessible to the Community

One of the hallmarks of the Helen Edison Lecture Series is its accessibility to the broader community. While the event is hosted on campus at the Jeannie Auditorium, efforts are made to welcome attendees from all backgrounds and areas of the greater San Diego/Tijuana binational region.

"The Helen Edison Lecture Series is free and open to the community. We hope guests from across the region join in person and are inspired by the presentations," shared Waltz.

Waltz also expressed the value of seeing and hearing from a speaker like Dr. Bernice King in a live setting.

"The lectures are so impactful when you attend in person. There is a palpable vibrancy in guests' facial expressions as they are moved by the presenter's ideas," said Waltz. "That one-to-one human connection is needed to break through the noise of our hectic lives. These experiences of attending and hearing such an eloquent speaker in person can provide the passion to motivate people and move ideas. Dr. King has the power to do that."

Waltz also shared that he'd love to see school groups from across our binational region attend to allow audiences of all ages and neighborhoods to benefit from Dr. King's words.

"My wish is that schools across the region will bring their students in for this impactful event with Dr. King," said Waltz. "That's really what Helen Edison's hope was: that not only would UC San Diego students benefit, but the broader community would also have the opportunity to participate and be inspired and transformed."

In addition to the live event, efforts are underway to make the recording available through UC San Diego's broadcasting channels. This ensures that the impact of Bernice King's talk extends beyond those in attendance, reaching a broader audience and sparking continued discussion and reflection.

How to Attend the Helen Edison Lecture with Dr. King

The Helen Edison Lecture with Dr. Bernice A. King is free and open to the public. Advanced registration is required and can be completed on the Helen Edison Lecture series webpage.

Schools or large groups that would like to attend are directed to contact UC San Diego Extended Studies Arts and Culture Associate, Pilialoha Estall, at pestall@ucsd.edu.

More about the Helen Edison Lecture Series, including past lectures, is available at UC San Diego Extended Studies Public Events and Lectures.

More about the UC San Diego Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion can be found on their website.

ArtPower at UC San Diego presents performing arts that engage, energize, and transform the diverse cultural life of the university and San Diego Learn more about ArtPower.


Location Subject to change.


Posted: 4/23/2024 8:00:00 AM with 0 comments

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