Maliq Nixon left no student group untouched.
A UC Berkeley sophomore and a political activist, Nixon was pronounced dead early Saturday morning at Stebbins Hall, a Northside co-op on Ridge Road where he was living. He was 19.
The cause of death is unknown, according to the Berkeley Police Department.
Since Saturday, there has been an outpouring of condolences on social media and from Nixon’s friends as they recall his infectious spirit.
A history major who friends say was known for his strong convictions and tireless energy, Nixon was active in campus politics. Last year, he volunteered for Cal Berkeley Democrats, interned at the Gender Equity Resource Center and worked on multiple campaigns for the campus political party CalSERVE. This year, he was already hard at work volunteering for CalSERVE Senator Briana Mullen.
“If you were to ask someone if they knew Maliq Nixon, they would know Maliq Nixon,” said CalDems President Sofie Karasek. “He was one of those people who you could bond over knowing. He brought people together just by virtue of being himself.”
Despite having a packed schedule, Nixon made time to enjoy a number of outside interests, according to close friend Ross Cunningham. He was always listening to rap group OFWGKTA, and he loved La Burrita horchatas. He also used to carry a purse — a habit Karasek remembered fondly.
“Even if he wasn’t happy, he’d make sure that other people were,” said UC Berkeley junior Marcel Jones, who knew Nixon through CalSERVE.
Many friends remember Nixon as a captivating orator. His voice would rise in volume as he became more and more engrossed in a debate.
Caitlin Quinn, a CalSERVE senator, said she first took notice of Nixon’s civic engagement before he arrived at UC Berkeley. The incoming freshman was an avid poster on the Class of 2016 Facebook page, where he often engaged in debates. While most freshmen were just settling into the residence halls, Nixon helped Quinn register incoming students to vote.
Cunningham, a UC Berkeley sophomore, also connected with Nixon early in their freshman year. The pair met during Welcome Week and quickly developed a close friendship.
“He lived in his head, often quiet and withdrawn, but he was always willing to talk with you when you’re feeling upset,” Cunningham said in a Facebook message. “He gave so much and expected nothing in return.”
At the time of his death, Nixon was working for Mullen, advocating greater access to mental health services on campus. Mullen said Nixon felt the university “wasn’t doing enough.”
Mullen and others recall Nixon advocating the inclusion of Northside co-ops in the ASUC-sponsored Berkeley redistricting map at a recent ASUC Senate meeting — another issue about which he was vocal.
“He was at every senate, every committee meeting,” Mullen said. “You couldn’t pay most Cal students to sit through those.”
Interim Dean of Students David Surratt said the campus has reached out to Nixon’s family since the death was announced. Plans for a memorial service are pending, Quinn said.
“He was very passionate and very radical, but he would be really really respectful of people that wouldn’t always agree with him,” Quinn said. “And that’s rare. I was really looking forward to seeing where he was going to go.”