Presentations and Workshops Given By Various Speakers and Scholars
The MultiCultural Center hosted its second annual social justice conference PUSHING FORWARD: Critical Tools for a New Generation this Saturday, featuring University of Southern California professor Ange-Marie Hancock, hip hop performer Bambu and a number of other scholars and speakers.
The conference aimed to initiate dialogue about underrepresented students and motivate them to help fix injustices in society. It included a series of workshops to provide advice on diversity training, careers in social justice, radical visions for transformation and tips for organizing. The event launched with a speech by Otha Cole, an MCC associate and student liaison, who commended student attendees for devoting their Saturday morning to help change society.
Cole gave students words of encouragement in the fight for racial justice, and she advised students try to find equality and social justice in every sphere of life.
“It’s important that you keep fighting not just in your careers afterwards, but also in your personal lives as well, and continue growing strong as leaders,” Cole said.
Applauding student attendees on their search for knowledge outside the classroom, Cole said there is a strong hope for greater activism is current and future generations that is stronger than the most recent decades.
“Right now, it’s already clear that ya’ll made the commitment to go beyond the classroom and actually take social justice seriously as something that’s beyond theoretical,” Cole said. “We think that millennials have a lot to add in taking social justice and the fight a step further than what our ancestors fought for.”
Ange-Marie Hancock, the keynote speaker, gave a presentation titled “Intersectionality and Deep Political Solidarity: The Wonder Twin Powers of Social Justice,” focusing on the experiences of those in multiple underrepresented groups.
“Intersectionality, in its most simple understanding, is of how our different identifications of race, class and sexual orientation all work together to shape who we are,” Hancock said. “The idea of intersectionality is essential to addressing social issues.”
According to Hancock, there are many different ways to approach problems in society, such as seeking to understand and engage in conversation with those who are different, as well as to come up with solutions to create a more equal society. But she also warned students to avoid what she called the “oppression Olympics.”
“The oppression Olympics is when people rank how oppressed they are to see which group is the most oppressed,” Hancock said. “Instead, we should strive to see that each of our problems are important and work to understand the different issues we each face.”
The featured presentation brought in local grassroots organization People Organizing for the Defense and Equal Rights of Santa Barbara Youth, or PODER, to discuss their efforts against the Santa Barbara gang injunction. The group gave students an overview of what is happening in the Santa Barbara community and explained how the injunction affects people who have committed no crimes and are trying to get their lives on track.
PODER representative Marissa Garcia said one of the primary issues with the injunction is that it would racially criminalize the defendants and their families.
“Gang injunctions are primarily placed in areas with a high percentage of people of color,” Garcia said. “The zoning for this gang injunction is so large that it will displace many people from the communities they grew up in and their homes.”
PODER encouraged students to join and support their cause by buying a t-shirt, going to their events or attending to this morning’s court hearing on the injunction at the Santa Barbara Superior Court.
“No matter what happens or that judge says, they will know that we are united and not just letting it happen, but will continue fighting,” Garcia said.
Organizer and hip-hop artist Bambu gave a presentation tilted “Tug-o-War: How Hip Hop Is Used as an Ally and Enemy of Social Justice”. During the event, he spoke about the prevalence and image of hip-hop in today’s culture. He said culture is the easiest to change because it affects the economic sector, which in turn affects the political sector.
According to Bambu, most of today’s popular artists have become unreliable and rap about what they have rather than representing the place from which they came.
“Jay-Z’s recent song is talking about Bugatti,” he said. “Most of us can’t afford a Bugatti. I know I can’t, so I can’t relate to it. It teaches kids that this is success, so they grow up wanting a Bugatti and wanting to wear Givenchy.”
In fact, Bambu said the musical genre — and its accompanying culture — is mostly about money and garnering radio play, using Sage the Gemini’s hit “Gas Pedal” as an example.
“‘Gas Pedal’ is nice to dance to and everything, but it doesn’t mean anything,” Bambu said. “It’s catchy, but what is it talking about?”
He spoke about his evolution as an artist, explaining that he strives to make music that is a genuine representation of real life struggles.
“When I started out, I was told my music was good but wouldn’t last because I wasn’t saying anything,” Bambu said. “In my music I’ll say things like ‘Fuck the police,’ but it’s not an isolated incident. People need to understand the social structures that it comes from, and I try to break it down for them.”
However, Bambu said music by itself cannot change the world, and that action needs to be taken.
“You have to understand that listening to me or Immortal Technique doesn’t make you an activist, it makes you a fan,” Bambu said. “To be an activist, you need to actually go out and make a change.”
Second-year sociology major Anja Williams said the event was a great venue to express how she felt and made her want to get more involved.
“This is definitely a great space,” Williams said. “It’s nice to be able to open up about struggles and issues and hear how other people deal with them and find ways to fix them.”
The event concluded with a free musical performance by Bambu, who interacted with the audience and had students on their feet.