Students of Color Convene

A record 300 students participated this weekend in the 12th annual “”Students of Color Conference: Politics of Silence Establishing a Voice at the Crossroads of the New Millennium,”” which was hosted by the A.S. Council in cooperation with the UC Student Association.

Students from various schools were in attendance during the three-day event, including members from all of the UC campuses, some California State University campuses and some high schools. Among the UC campuses, Davis and Riverside had the highest number of attendees.

UC Santa Cruz junior David Harbaugh explained his motivation for making the long commute to attend the conference.

“”My motivation as a white ally was to learn my role as one,”” Harbaugh said. “”I wanted to be more familiar with the struggle and I think the people [in the conference] have been really open in trying to educate themselves and learn their role, as well.””

Co-Chair of the SOCC Committee Nneka Udoh said she heard only good things about the conference.

“”It was extremely organized,”” Udoh said. “”I think this conference in San Diego totally set a precedent — not to say the ones in the past weren’t successful, because they were. It’s just that this year we had so many people.””

Jesse Coward, a member of the SOCC Committee, agreed.

“”It ran very smoothly,”” Coward said. “”The amount of work and energy put into it really paid off.””

Udoh said the high turnout rate was a surprise for everyone involved. According to her, this year’s student participation is a significant increase from last year’s number of approximately 60 students.

Before the conference, Co-Chair of the SOCC Committee Alicia Schwartz talked about her goals for the three-day event.

“”My big hope is that people will get something from this when they leave,”” Schwartz said. “”After a conference like this, it makes you think of what you really have — you realize just how privileged you are.””

The conference’s first major event on Friday was “”The Arena,”” a concert/dance/art exhibit featuring L.A. Symphony and Medusa.

Events sponsored by the conference on Saturday included an opening speech from Hughes Suffren of Claremont-McKenna College, workshops on issues including rally organization, various caucuses including multiple identities and a rally and march with the coalition of Justice for Janitors and Bus Riders’ Union. The evening’s activities included a banquet featuring professor George Lipsitz of the UCSD department of ethnic studies as keynote speaker, and the play “”The Vagina Monologues.””

“”He touched me deeply,”” said Kevin Du, a UC Davis junior, about Lipsitz’s speech. “”He talked so passionately that it made me passionate.””

Sunday, the final day of the conference, wrapped up with more workshops, caucuses addressing women and queers of color, a panel discussion entitled “”The Changing Face of Activism”” and finally, a large group session.

Arash Kolahi, a Marshall senior, said he liked how the conference ended.

“”It ends on a positive note,”” Kolahi said. “”Speakers talk about solutions and success stories.””

A.S. Vice President External Eugene Mahmoud praised the conference and its participants but wondered why more people did not attend, particularly more members of the administration.

“”It’s interesting when something is student-initiated like this conference, Chancellor Dynes, who has deemed himself chief executive officer of diversity, or something to that effect, is not here,”” Mahmoud said.

Udoh shared his sentiment.

“”Honestly, I wish more people from UCSD could be here,”” Udoh said. “”I wish Joseph Watson and Chancellor Dynes were here. They should totally use this as a resource.””

UC Riverside senior and External Vice President Ryann Nieves mentioned how she thought this year’s conference was better than the ones before.

“”This is my third year at the conference, and this year has three times as many students who are just more willing to listen and dialogue,”” Nieves said. “”Touchy subjects usually bring negative connotations, but I’ve seen people [this year] really be open to make it a positive situation.””

Nieves went on to commend the San Diego staff for hosting the event so smoothly.

UCLA junior Greg Hom said one of the goals of participants was to network.

“”A lot of connections were made that were really important,”” Hom said. “”I definitely met a lot of people, which is sort of the theme of this conference — unity of struggle.””

Mahmoud said most of the credit should be given to Co-Chairs Udoh and Schwartz.

Udoh expressed her thanks to all the SOCC staff, including a special thanks to Tom Colley, UCSD operations manager of the University Centers.

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