Nobel laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Toni Morrison is scheduled to be awarded the UCLA Medal, the campus’s highest honor. The medal will be presented by UCLA Chancellor Gene Block at a special event in Royce Hall on Monday, Oct. 5.
The UCLA Medal is presented to those of exceptionally distinguished academic and professional achievement whose work embodies UCLA’s highest ideals. The medal citation calls Morrison ”one of the most celebrated authors and distinguished professors in American history … [who] has created works characterized by epic themes, vivid dialogue and richly drawn characters.”
Morrison will participate via video conference in a panel discussion celebrating her contributions to American literature and culture. The 4 p.m. event, “Black Lives Matter: Artists and Intellectuals Creating a Movement,” is free and open to the public.
Other panelists include Robin D.G. Kelley, a distinguished professor of history and Gary B. Nash Endowed Chair in United States History at the UCLA College; Cheryl Harris, the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation Chair in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and professor at the UCLA School of Law; Shamell Bell, a community organizer, choreographer and Ph.D. student in culture and performance in UCLA’s Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance; and Patrisse Cullors, a Los Angeles-based artist, organizer and founder of Dignity and Power Now, and co-creator of #BlackLivesMatter.
Morrison received the Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for her novel “Beloved.” She became the first African-American woman to win a Nobel Prize when she won it for literature in 1993. Morrison received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. She is a professor emeritus at Princeton University.
Morrison receives the UCLA Medal in conjunction with performances of “Desdemona,” a play written by her in collaboration with Malian musician Rokia Traoré. “Desdemona” will be presented by the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA (CAP UCLA) Oct. 8-11, at the Freud Playhouse. It will be directed by Peter Sellars, UCLA professor of world arts and cultures/dance. For more information and tickets, visit cap.ucla.edu/Desdemona.
On Wednesday, Oct. 7, at 4 p.m. at Freud Playhouse, Morrison will participate via video conference in a panel discussion about the themes surrounding “Desdemona.” She will be joined by Sellars and “Desdemona” performer and librettist Traoré. Also participating will be Yogita Goyal, associate professor of English at UCLA, who specializes in African-American literature; Arthur Little, associate professor of English, who focuses on Shakespeare, gender studies, and African-American, race and ethnic studies; and Ayanna Thompson, professor of English at George Washington University, who specializes in Renaissance drama and issues of race in performance.
The panel discussion, titled “Desdemona’s Hidden Histories: Women’s Voices Moving in the Night from Africa to America by Way of Shakespeare and Morrison,” is free and open to the public.