Champions of Social Justice Recognized at UC Davis Equity Summit

Collage of the headshots of the nine award winners
Recipients of Social Justice Awards, from left: Top row — Tracy Lachica Buenavista, Savannah Shange, Pamela Huang Chao, Christopher Matthews and Gayelynn Gerhart. Bottom row — Michael Gibson, Raymond Walker, Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales and Rachel Guerrero.

Hundreds of people will come together to celebrate and learn from one another as activist educators, community members and experts who fight for equity and collective change on Tuesday, March 10, at the University of California, Davis. The occasion will be the university’s 10th annual Equity Summit, an event that will include the presentation of Social Justice Awards to nine individuals.

Photo of Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot
Keynoter Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot

Keynote speaker Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, a sociologist and leader in education, will address the responsibility of educators to forge connections between learning and justice. Last summer, upon her retirement from Harvard University after a career of nearly 50 years, the chair that she occupied was renamed the Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot Endowed Chair, making her the first African American woman at Harvard to be so honored. Her pioneering work in the social sciences explores new ways to analyze education, culture and social change.

The summit, on the theme of collective possibilities for a more equitable future, has been organized by the Office of Research and Policy for Equity at UC Davis with assistance from the university’s Equity Task Force.

Vajra Watson, director of the Office of Research and Policy for Equity, organizes the Equity Summit as an inspirational forum for change. “Education — whether in a classroom, community center or at the kitchen table — can seed transformation,” she said. “Educational equity grows out of a value system of service, humility and love. We need more spaces that are analytical and emotional; scientific and spiritual; theoretical and practical.”

The social justice awards and their recipients:

  • Community Engagement and Scholars Activism AwardsTracy Lachica Buenavista, a professor of Asian American studies at California State University, Northridge; and Savannah Shange, an assistant professor of anthropology and a principal faculty member in critical race and ethnic studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. 
  • Awards for Seeding Improvements in Education Policy and Practice — Pamela Huang Chao, professor and chair of sociology at American River College, Sacramento, and coordinator of its Equity Action Institute; and Christopher Matthews, assistant superintendent for support services with Fulton County Schools, Georgia.
  • Ubuntu Awards for Inspiring Social Change — Gayelynn Gerhart, principal of Alternative Education, Yolo County Office of Education; Michael Gibson, executive director of the Alameda County Emergency Medical Services Corps; and Raymond Walker, manager for the Social Emotional Support Program for high schools, Natomas Unified School District, Sacramento, and facilitator for the Natomas High School Black Students Union.
  • Lifetime Achievement Awards for Embodying Equity and Diversity — Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales, a professor of Asian American studies at San Francisco State University; and Rachel Guerrero of Guerrero Consulting Services, retired chief of the Office of Multicultural Services at the California Department of Mental Health.

The summit will begin at 4 p.m. at the UC Davis Conference Center. The keynote address starts at 5:30 p.m. and dinner will follow at 6:15 p.m. After a brief performance by Sacramento Area Youth Speaks, or SAYS, awards will be presented at 7:30 p.m. The event will conclude at 9 p.m. 

The event is sold out; to be added to the waiting list, send an email to Vajra Watson.

Media Resources

Anna Skarr

Vajra Watson, Office of Research and Policy for Equity, cell 530-370-2889,

Julia Ann Easley, News and Media Relations, 530-752-8248,

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