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100 Ways: Freedom & Human Rights

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Published May 13, 2019 12:54 PM


Beyond Springfield

The Simpsons

For UCLA undergraduates, The Simpsons are like the sun or an evening breeze — elemental aspects of existence. The show, currently in its 30th season on FOX, has always just been there, ubiquitous, with new episodes airing and reruns running on a perpetual loop on cable and streaming services.


Nancy Cartwright shares a warm moment with Bart Simpson, the character she has voiced for 30 years.

What they might not realize is UCLA’s connection to one of the most enduring and influential shows in broadcast history. How influential? From catch phrases entering the cultural lexicon to the elevation of animation as a popular art form; from outraging politicians to the creation of a seamless combination of sophisticated humor with a common man’s voice not heard since Mark Twain, The Simpsons’ impact on culture is incalculable.

The Springfield-Westwood connection starts with the show’s star: Nancy Cartwright ’81, who has voiced Bart, the series’ original breakout character, since Day One. “When I watch the show, I just become a fan,” says Cartwright, who voices several other Simpsons characters as well. “I dig it for what it is.”

David Silverman ’79, M.F.A. ’83, who studied animation at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television (TFT), directed The Simpsons Movie. He called the experience the fulfillment of a childhood dream.

Speaking of TFT, Matt Groening, the award-winning creator of The Simpsons himself, in 2012 pledged $500,000 to establish the Matt Groening Endowed Chair in Animation at UCLA TFT.

The Simpsons-UCLA connection extends beyond Springfield’s animated borders. Patrick Meighan ’95, co-executive producer, story editor and writer for Family Guy, penned the Simpsons-Family Guy crossover. “The episode was a love letter to The Simpsons,” Meighan says. “It’s a very self-deprecating story, an acknowledgment that without The Simpsons, there would be no Family Guy.


Justice for All

Arthur Ashe

Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison. While there, he read tennis great Arthur Ashe’s three-volume treatise on African-American athletes, A Hard Road to Glory. When Mandela was released, he declared Ashe ’66 to be the American he most wanted to meet. The two became friends and fellow activists, united in the fight against apartheid and for freedom for all.

Born in Virginia, Ashe learned tennis on segregated courts. He relocated to St. Louis in search of better competition and excelled, catching the eye of UCLA tennis coach J.D. Morgan ’41. He then headed to Westwood to play tennis and earn his degree. Today, a person could throw a tennis ball from the steps of the UCLA Morgan Intercollegiate Athletics Center to the entrance of the Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center.


Ashe enjoyed a successful professional career as well. He made the finals of seven major championships, winning five, including a 1975 match at Wimbledon, where he defeated fellow Bruin Jimmy Connors. He was the first African-American man to win Wimbledon, the Australian Open and the U.S. Open, and the first to be ranked the No. 1 player in the world.

Ashe’s activism defied convention. He once said that “being black” was his greatest burden, not racism or coping with AIDS. He stood alongside Mandela in the fight against South African apartheid, but was taken to task for playing matches in the segregated country. He recognized the paradox of being a black American and also “a have.”

Still, Ashe fought for justice for African Americans, served as spokesman for the American Heart Association, established tennis and educational programs throughout the U.S. and advocated for AIDS/HIV awareness at a time when the illness was misunderstood by most. In 1992, he was arrested outside the White House during a protest against U.S. policies toward Haitian refugees.

Though he chafed under the expectations put upon him, Ashe is best remembered for his impact on others.

“Spiritual nourishment is as important as physical or intellectual nourishment,” he wrote. “Do not beg God for favors. Instead, ask God for the wisdom to know what is right, what God wants done, and the will to do it.”


Urban Understanding

CityLab

There may be no subject matter as multidisciplinary as the city. A mix of social sciences, engineering, design, politics, history, technology and more, the city resists easy comprehension. To try to reconcile this complexity, UCLA Architecture Professor Dana Cuff founded cityLAB, a research and experimental laboratory that considers the city from across the academic spectrum and civil society to take on the biggest challenges facing urban areas around the world. Through a mix of scholarly research, design studio problem-solving and speculative proposals, cityLAB thinks deeply about — and tries to shape — the 21st-century city. Past projects have included a complete rethink of the design of Westwood Village that imagined a future with fewer cars and more street life, and an architectural exploration of the ways evolving notions of work may affect physical business hubs like downtown L.A. and Century City. Since its founding in 2006, a major cityLAB focus has been addressing L.A.’s housing shortage by building additional units in backyards, and years of research were recently adapted into legislation that eases restrictions on the building of backyard homes across California. More than just a think tank, cityLAB bridges academics and action. “We bring the force of the university to bear on the city,” says Cuff.


CityLAB’s scope includes design and state policy, including AB2299, a California law co-authored by UCLA’s Dana Cuff to permit secondary rental units on all single-family lots in the state.

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