The 13th Annual UC Student of Color Conference was held at UCSB last weekend, bringing together students from UC campuses across the state to address the ramifications the war on terror has had on people of color.
The conference, put on by the UC Student Association, began Friday with an open-mic forum at Corwin Pavilion that featured a spoken-word performance by UCSB alumna Erin O’Brien. Organizers and attendees were then able to voice their thoughts on politics and minority issues through speech, poetry and music.
Saturday’s activities began with a breakfast during which students got an opportunity to meet students from other UC campuses. The students then attended a series of workshops aimed at educating people on the political and social forces that affect people of color. For many students, the workshops proved to be the most rewarding part of the conference.
“I really liked the ‘Environment, Racism and War’ workshop. It was interesting because [it showed] that there is a lot of racism that people take for granted, especially when it comes to the environment, [such as] how urban environments are more frequently near waste dumps,” Mark Gabriel, a third-year UC Riverside business administration major, said. “It connected to a political science class I am taking on environmentalist issues.”
The “NO on the Information Ban” workshop, about the racial privacy initiative written by UC Regent Ward Connerly, was also popular among attendees.
“My favorite workshop was ‘NO on the Information Ban,’ because it was so relevant to minority groups, and it will affect us as students in the future,” Caroline Hong, fourth-year UC Riverside English and history major, said. “It was very informative.”
Aaron McGruder, creator of the “Boondocks” comic strip, delivered the keynote speech of the conference Saturday evening. McGruder voiced his criticism of the leftist movement and the way it mobilizes and presents itself. Audience members said they felt he presented a somewhat indifferent attitude toward minority causes in contrast to other speakers.
“[McGruder] was anti-dogma. He tried to let people know he was just a cartoonist,” Susan Ayoob, fourth-year UC Santa Cruz Spanish major, said. “Some walked out, but others liked it.”
Following the keynote address, a dinner and panel discussion regarding “The Militarization of Our Community” was held. Renee Saucedo, an immigration advocate, gave a speech on immigrant rights during the panel discussion that received a standing ovation.
“She was amazing,” Rebekah Waldron, conference organizer and Student Coalition on Racial Equality co-commissioner said.
Mario Africa, founder of AWOL magazine, was also on the panel and spoke on the militarization of youth and the reclaiming of hip hop as a minority art form.
“[Africa] spoke in a way that engaged young people in the issue,” Waldron said. “He gave them a lot of creative ideas.”
Saturday’s events and workshops came to an end with a concert featuring the B-Side Players and Prophets of Rage.
More workshops were held Sunday before the conference concluded with a gathering in which participants reflected on the conference.
Organizers said they were pleased with the turnout and results of the conference.
“We’ve made a lot of progress,” Waldron said. “It’s a great step toward building multicultural coalitions against war.”
However, not all participants were satisfied. Some students complained about the lack of African-American presence at the conference.
“The overall feeling of the Student of Color Conference is that there was a lack of color,” Courtney Schroeder, a second-year UCSB business economics major, said. “The black community at UCSB feels there was a lack of outreach by conference organizers.”
The inclusion of groups that do not focus on racial and ethic issues was another complaint from some students.
“The presence of the queer alliance was unnecessary,” Angela Villa, third-year UC Riverside computer science major, said. “I have nothing against homosexuality, but it is a conference for students of color. It diverged from the focus of the conference.”