Mission Statement

In 1619, some twenty Africans were abducted from their homeland to the British colony of Virginia and forced into slavery, joining the half million Africans before them who were traded across the Atlantic and enslaved throughout the Old and New World. This episode marks the inception of chattel slavery in what became America and aptly captures this nation’s original paradox—that although America was founded on principles of freedom and justice for all, it has orchestrated, upheld, and benefitted from a system of domination that strips Black people, among others, of their dignity, humanity, and “certain unalienable Rights, among which are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Not until four centuries later did America write into law the “400 Years of African-American History Commission Act” in an effort to acknowledge the legacy of American slavery—a historical institution too seldom remembered, too often distorted, too routinely maimed.

The staff at the UC Berkeley Student Learning Center recognize chattel slavery as an integral and shameful part of American history and consider it our shared responsibility to re-member. We condemn the relentless and systemic erasure of its facts, nuances, and consequences from American educational and political discourse. interGeneration400: Breathe. Remember. Live. is our take on the 400 Years of African-American History Commission Act and contribution to the national conversation about the acute and lasting legacy of American slavery, its impact on Black people and all of humanity. 

We call ourselves interGeneration400, a kinship forged through ties to slavery and history. 400 years removed from the start of American slavery and 400 years informed by its consequences, each of us is witness to, participant in, and inheritor of 400 years of human experience, shaped as much by the sanctioned perpetration of violence against Black bodies as by the extraordinary persistence of Black ingenuity, resilience, and activism. We are intergenerational; we are multiracial; we are diasporic. Our diverse ways of knowing make us wise and curious. Our multitudinous origins make us porous and immense. Our intersecting histories make us whole and intimate. Our commitment to one another makes us strong and bold. As kinfolk in social justice, we cross difference to find one another and, together, we bear responsibility not only for knowing history, but also for interrogating its influence on our daily endeavors. Dreaming in color, we hold dear and sacred, inherent and unalienable, our right to Breathe. Remember. Live.

Indeed, we call on the spirits of our ancestors—Indigenous and transplanted, black and white, brown and yellow, exiled and displaced—to bless our willpower to breathe, remember, and live. Through the stubborn desire to be self-actualized and collectively generative, we seek to manifest the wisdom we inherit from and—following Saidiya Hartman’s critical practice—the stories we [must] fabulate about Black lives. Thus, interGeneration400 is also our heartfelt invitation to the specific communities we collectively span to join us in acts of commemoration. 

As we honor our Black forebears who toiled and sustained this land, we commemorate the freedoms they were forced to surrender in service of America. By recognizing their trials and triumphs, we memorialize their courage, their life force, and their contributions—creative, intellectual, and political—to America and the world at large. Finally, by connecting ourselves with one another through breath, memory, and movement, we reaffirm the intimacy of our interrelations—the intermingling of our pasts and inextricability of our futures.

The Congress Commission is set to “terminate” on June 1, 2020, but our commemorative practices and invitations—like our inter-generational journey—will be ongoing. Recalling the words of VèVè Amasasa Clark, to whom our Writing Program lounge is dedicated, we vow to continue “reading between the black and white keys,” investing boldly in work and action that enables the experience, survival, and betterment of our shared humanity.