Former Black Panther to speak, perform at UC Merced

A former Black Panther who went on to start a nonprofit in Tanzania while living in exile will give a free, public talk and performance at UC Merced on Tuesday.

Charlotte “Mama C” O’Neal will share her story of survival and life as a Black Panther from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Wallace-Dutra Amphitheater, near the center of the university, 5200 Lake Road.

Also planned is a reception and screening of “Mama C: Urban Warrior in the African Bush,” a new documentary about O’Neal by filmmaker Joanne Hershfield. The showing will be in UC Merced’s California Room, across from the amphitheater.

Hershfield is an award-winning filmmaker and professor of women’s studies, as well as a department head at North Carolina State University, Chapel Hill.

In the amphitheater, O’Neal is set to perform songs with musicians Tarika Lewis, Avotcja and Val Serrant. O’Neal is a world-class improvisational jazz, blues, spoken word and visual artist, according to a press release. She has recorded four albums, of which the latest is titled “Nyatiti Speaks to Me.”

“As a member of the Black Panther Party, I was taught the importance of building international solidarity among all people while honoring my ancestral roots,” she said in a press release. “That philosophy has never changed, and many of my poems and songs reflect this burning desire and mission to spread peace, love, empowerment and unity through my art.”

She immigrated to Africa in 1971, where she and her husband co-founded the United African Alliance Community Center. Her poetry and reflections are widely published, and she is the subject of books, articles and documentaries.

Tarika Lewis, known for being the first woman to join the Black Panther Party, has toured nationally and internationally and currently plays violin, viola and harp. Avotcja plays a multipercussion instrument and is a Bay Area radio DJ as well as member of Avotcja & Modúpue, a Bay Area jazz group. Val Serrant is a musician from the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago who will perform with African and steel drums.

Before and after the screening, there will be discussion sessions with the musicians, the press release stated.

For more on the film or to see the trailer, go to

This event is sponsored by the African Diaspora Student Association at UC Merced. For more on the association, email Kim McMillon at