Jeffrey Chang/HIGHLANDER
Jeffrey Chang/HIGHLANDER

On April 30 in the HUB, over 200 UCR students attended the first Beyond R’Margins Conference, which consisted of keynote speakers, performances and workshops concerning the topic of diversity and social justice at UCR and worldwide.

According to ASUCR CHASS senator and spearhead of the conference, Dalshawn Boson, “the goal of Beyond R’Margins is to create an inclusive space on campus and educate others of their respective struggles.” In order to create an overall more accepting campus, Boson believes that “listening and education are the two most important factors. In order to accept someone, you need to listen to where they come from … that’s why we need to further events like these so that they can become institutionalized … and lead to more acceptance.”

The conference began with a video keynote from Marshall “Eddie” Conway, a former Black Panther Party for Self-Defense member who was wrongfully imprisoned for 44 years. Conway discussed the necessity of collaborative social movements, which need to organize in new ways “as opposed to duplicating what we did in the ‘60s, duplicating what we done in the ‘20s, or ‘30s, or ‘40s or ‘50s.”

Afterward, Boson took to the podium to not only introduce the next keynote speaker, Councilman of Stockton Michael D. Tubbs, but to also draw attention to a quote from Assata Shakur, which he felt encapsulated the goals of Beyond R’Margins. It read, “Once you understand something about the history of a people, their heroes, their hardships, and their sacrifices, it’s easier to struggle with them.”

“We’re gonna move beyond our margins, it really has to be collective — it’s not just university,” Tubbs urged. “Some of us have come from it and feel it, but the folks who are really dealing with the hell are the people who are from unbroken concrete, are the seeds underneath the concrete. I think to really move beyond our margins, we really have to challenge ourselves to think … not just for how we celebrate those, like ourselves, who broke the concrete, but how … we use the tools they had to disrupt the concrete for all the other seeds.”

Following the speakers, the first round of workshops began and were led by students, staff and faculty on various topics. Assistant Dean of Students Joe Viranta presented a workshop entitled “From Common Ground, To Higher Ground,” where he wished for participants to collectively examine who makes up UCR as an institution from the communities and individuals, then have them engage with the question, “How do we make change to make this a more inclusive, positive environment?” Alyeska Gutierrez, a fourth-year media culture studies and ethnic studies double major, created a safe space in her workshop by asking participants if they ever had experiences where their identities were confronted.  

As one of the conference’s second round of workshops, Cuauhtemoc Peranda, a PhD student in critical dance studies at UCR, discussed voguing. Peranda described voguing as a “black, Latino gay dance form” that has been collectively developed by artists such as Madonna, Beyonce and Lady Gaga. He said, however, that the dance form provides an intersectional space that emphasizes the message that “(your identity) is a part of who you are and it’s beautiful.”

Another workshop, led by Angelica “Pickles” Camacho discussed the rise of the prison-industrial complex. Camacho exerted that “the conception of rehabilitation makes it seem like something is inherently wrong with the prisoners … what we need is more shelters, mental health services, therapy services. This is part of a larger structural problem.”

At 1:10 p.m., the lunch break began and students headed over to Latitude 55 to watch cultural performances by Katipunan Filipino Student Union, Chinese Martial Arts Club, Reyna S. Rousse, Bryant Glover and Ballet Folklorico de UCR.

As one of the last rounds of workshops, members of the project Guardian Princess Alliance, led by Professor Setsu Shigematsu, associate professor in the media and cultural studies department at UCR, introduced her revolutionary project that is committed to altering the “traditional princess story” with seven diverse princesses who each strive for an individual cause. For instance, Princess Terra is an anti-war activist and Princess Leilani is a full-figured princess with the aim of promoting body positivity.

In an interesting twist on speed dating, a workshop titled, “Dating With My Identity,” led by Alana Anguren and Angelica Tan, made people experience the discomforts of racial fetishism upfront. Each member was given a script that they had to read from while speed dating and it included phrases such as, “You’re really cute for a black person” and “Hey Papi/Mami.”

The conference was concluded by legendary labor rights leader Dolores Huerta, the co-founder of the National Farmworkers Association and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Huerta commented on the wealth inequality by saying we are not referred to as citizens; we are referred to as consumers and that our educational system is like an elimination program because of the current tuition hikes and tedious standardized testing. She stated that this emphasizes the “importance of education in our society … if we are not educated, the greedy and powerful will take control.” In her closing statement, Huerta urged everyone to “come together, organize and take direct nonviolent action,” regarding voting in particular.
Reflecting on the event, fifth-year UCR student Gadiel Lopez stated, “Before the conference, I only had a broad knowledge of lots of the issues but now I have a clearer idea of them … I think the most surprising thing I learned was about the prison-industrial complex … and how the system goes into middle and high schools too. I didn’t know that it affected underage students and minorities as well.