SFAI is proud to announce its 2019 Commencement Honorees. Building on the remarkable exhibition Vanguard Revisited: Poetic Politics & Black Futures, the school will celebrate the unshakable human commitment of three extraordinary social activists:
- Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts– Emory Douglas, artist and Black Panther Party Minister of Culture
- Douglas G. MacAgy Distinguished Achievement Award– Ericka Huggins and Barbara Easley-Cox, Black Panther Party leaders, human rights activists, and educators
Each honoree will deliver remarks during the 2019 Commencement Ceremony on May 18.
Says President Gordon Knox: “It will be with a sense of profound honor that we celebrate our 2019 graduates with these exemplary leaders of social change and community empowerment. Emory Douglas, Ericka Huggins, and Barbara Easley-Cox are inspiring models for our brilliant graduating class!”
ABOUT THE HONOREES
Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts
The Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts is the highest honor bestowed at SFAI, given annually to a person who has made inspiring contributions to our society and demonstrated how an aesthetically astute, investigative mind can impact the world for the better.
Emory Douglas is a master of using art to communicate ideas, and created some of the most iconic social justice images of the 1960s and 1970s. He was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and has been a resident of the Bay Area since 1951. Douglas served as the Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party from 1967 until the party disbanded in the early 1980s. During this time he was the art director overseeing the design and layout of the Black Panther, the Party’s weekly newspaper, where he was noted for his political drawings and cartoons. Douglas is currently featured in the landmark traveling exhibition Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, which has been presented at Tate Modern, London; the Brooklyn Museum; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas; and The Broad, Los Angeles, and will be opening at the de Young Museum in San Francisco in Fall 2019. Other exhibitions include Black Panther Rank and File at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas at the MOCA Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles; Emory Douglas: Black Panther at the New Museum, New York; and Emory Douglas: Bold Visual Language at LACE in Los Angeles. He is the subject of the book Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas (Rizzoli, 2007). In 2015 he received the AIGA Medal, a prestigious award given to individuals in recognition of their exceptional achievements, services or other contributions to the field of design and visual communication. Douglas continues to dedicate his artwork to social justice.
Prior honorees include Kehinde Wiley, Enrique Chagoya, Linda Nochlin, Theaster Gates, Jack Whitten, Kathryn Bigelow, Roberta Smith, and David Goldblatt.
Douglas G. MacAgy Distinguished Achievement Award
Established at SFAI in 1996, the MacAgy Award is bestowed on a person or organization that has made a singularly compelling contribution to the Bay Area, especially concerning the public awareness of issues and ideas through the visual arts.
Ericka Huggins is a human rights activist, poet, educator, Black Panther Party leader and former political prisoner. Her life experiences have enabled her to speak personally and honestly on issues relating to the physical and emotional well-being of women, children and youth, whole being education, the incarceration of men, women, and youth of color, and the role of spiritual practice in sustaining activism and promoting social change. From 1973–1981, Ericka was the Director of the Oakland Community School, the groundbreaking community-run child development center and elementary school founded by the Black Panther Party. During those years, with community support, she became both the first woman and the first Black person to be appointed to the Alameda County Board of Education, which serves children with cognitive, emotional and physical disabilities, and incarcerated youth in all of the school districts of Alameda County. From 2003-2011 she was a professor of Women and Gender Studies at San Francisco State University and California State University, East Bay. From 2008-2015 she was a professor of Sociology and African American Studies in the Peralta Community College District. Currently, Ericka is one of the facilitators with World Trust, an organization that uses films that document, through story, the impact of systems of racial inequity.
Barbara Easley-Cox is a civil rights activist, teacher, and advocate for literacy. She joined the Black Panthers Party in 1967, led the San Francisco branch with her husband and later worked in the New York and Philadelphia chapters. She participated in the Free Breakfast for Children Program, collected apparel for the Free Clothing Program, and aided in other survival programs hosted by the Party. Easley-Cox traveled around the world, spreading chapters and involvement of the Black Panther Party to Algeria and Germany alongside well known Panther Kathleen Cleaver. She continues working as an advocate for community development, poverty, and social justice.
Prior honorees are Mildred Howard, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, René Yañez, Rebecca Solnit, Paul Sack, Ruth Braunstein, David Robinson, Marion Greene, Paule Anglim, San Francisco Cinematheque, Kitty Carlisle Hart, The Names Project, the Guerrilla Girls, SFMOMA, and Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture.