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Speaker Series

The Human Rights Program Speaker Series invites distinguished practitioners and scholars across disciplines to present their work. Cosponsored by the Townsend Center for the Humanities, the Series holds several events each semester. 

gun violence series logo.26Aug2016






Gun Violence in America is a 2016-2017 UC Berkeley event series that engages the nation’s foremost experts on gun violence in reframing public debate, laying the groundwork for new research and advocacy, and ultimately lessening gun violence in the United States.

The series is sponsored by the Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley School of Law, Human Rights Program, Henderson Center for Social Justice, School of Public Health, Graduate School of Journalism, and Social Science Matrix, with funding from the Jacob and Valeria Langeloth Foundation and Townsend Center for Humanities. 

Information about this series can be found here.

2015-2016 The [in]Justice System: Human Rights Series on California Prisons

prisoner drawing


United States prisons and jails‚ÄĒincarcerating 25 percent of all prisoners in the world‚ÄĒare the subject of unprecedented public attention. Mass incarceration, racial and economic inequity, violence against prisoners, and medical and mental health neglect now receive critical scrutiny after years in the shadows. President Obama recently became the first sitting president to visit a federal prison. State legislatures are working to cut prison populations, and once unthinkable bipartisan coalitions are tackling criminal justice reform. A recent landmark legal agreement in California will establish some limits on solitary confinement.¬†Even with this new attention and an appetite for change, no major reforms have been implemented.

UC Berkeley's Human Rights Program and the Human Rights Center at Berkeley Law, with the generous support of the Townsend Center for the Humanities and Social Science Matrix, are pleased to presenta  2015-16 event series focused on California prisons. The series will examine conditions, policies, and prospects for change within a national and international context. Speakers will include scholars, advocates, international practitioners, and formerly incarcerated people.


Join us for our first event in The [in]Justice System series‚ÄĒThe Life Cycle of the Problem‚ÄĒfeaturing¬†Jonathan Simon, UC Berkeley Professor of Law and author of Mass Incarceration on Trial; Keramet Reiter, UC Irvine Professor of Law and Society and co-author of Extreme Punishment; Hern√°n Reyes, former Medical Coordinator, Health in Detention, International Committee of the Red Cross; and Azadeh Zohrabi, National Campaigner for the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.

Panelists will discuss the school-to-prison pipeline, race and poverty, mental health, health care, solitary confinement, and more. Drinks and appetizers will be served. For more info or to RSVP: or 510.642.0965.


Spring 2015: South Africa in the West

Continuing our collaboration with the Townsend Center for the Humanities, the HRP is delighted to be co-sponsoring South Africa in the West, an events series presented by the Townsend Center, Berkeley Professors Catherine Cole and Gillian Hart, the Center for African Studies, Cal Performances, and the Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive, with generous sponsorship from the Office of the Chancellor. Details can be found here. Additional event information is included here. 

Wednesday, March 11th at 8 p.m.

Hugh Masekela, trumpeter and vocalist, and Vusi Mahlasela,singer-songwriter

Performing Arts - Music | March 11 | 8 p.m. |  Zellerbach Hall


Two South African musical ambassadors and freedom fighters, singer-songwriter Vusi Mahlasela and trumpeter/vocalist Hugh Masekela, join forces for a celebration of 20 years of democracy in their homeland, performing music of the anti-apartheid movement with a stellar backing band. For the first time, Mahlasela's warm, powerful voice meets Masekela's clarion trumpet in songs that are "optimistic and soulful, delivered with an intensity that captures the attention and embraces the heart" (Los Angeles Times).


Thursday, March 12th at 7 p.m.

A Letter to Nelson Mandela (Khalo Matabane; SouthAfrica/Germany, 2013): Introduction by Gillian Hart; Khalo Matabane in person

Film - Documentary | March 12 | 7-9 p.m. |  PFA Theater


Nelson Mandela‚Äôs message of freedom, forgiveness, and reconciliation still inspires people worldwide. Yet for South African filmmaker Khalo Matabane, Mandela‚Äôs legacy is far more ambivalent. As someone who came to adulthood after independence, Matabane sees a contemporary South Africa that is still profoundly divided and unequal. Using the conceit of an imaginary letter to Mandela, this deeply personal work questions the price of Mandela‚Äôs brokered reconciliation. Matabane‚Äôs cinematic diary includes interviews with the Dalai Lama, Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell, Pumla Gqola, Albie Sachs, and Ariel Dorfman, among others, as the filmmaker asks: How should we interpret Mandela‚Äôs message of freedom, forgiveness, and reconciliation today?‚ÄāCatherine Cole, Gillian Hart

Photographed by Giulo Biccari, Mike Downie, Nicolaas Hofmeyr. (85 mins, Color, DCP, From Born Free Media)


Friday, March 13th, 10 a.m. ‚Äď 6:30 pm.

South Africa After Mandela

Conference/Symposium | March 13 | 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m. |  Stephens Hall

South Africa recently marked the twentieth anniversary of its first democratic elections and the momentous passage of one of the great leaders who made this political transition possible, Nelson Mandela. While the post-apartheid era is often thought of in glowing terms outside South Africa, the current situation within the country provides ample evidence that the legacies of state-sanctioned violence, economic inequality, and institutional racism are still very much alive. This symposium features key voices from the generation of South Africans who have come of age in a post-apartheid world. It is being convened in dialogue with the March 11 Cal Performances concert by Hugh Masekela and Vusi Mahlasela, and the March 12 screening of the film A Letter to Nelson Mandela.

10:00 am-12:00 pm | Reconciliation in Retrospect

Session 1 features filmmaker Khalo Matabane, Siphokazi Magadla (Political and International Studies, Rhodes University), Catherine Cole (TDPS, UC Berkeley), and Gillian Hart (Geography, UC Berkeley) (Chair).

1:00 pm-5:00 pm | Marikana and its Aftermath

Session 2 includes a screening of the documentary film Miners Shot Down by Rehad Desai, followed by a discussion with South African journalist and author Niren Tolsi, Siphokazi Magadla (Political and International Studies, Rhodes University), Gillian Hart (Geography, UC Berkeley), and Catherine Cole (TDPS, UC Berkeley)(Chair).