Students collaborate to bring Student of Color Conference to UCR

Taken by Wesley Ng
A group of UC Riverside students have started organizing with the intent of winning the bid to host the UC Student Association (UCSA) Student of Color Conference. The conference, which is the UCSA’s longest-running and largest conference, provides an outlet for students to convene for a weekend of informative workshops, activities and presentations catered to communities of color.

“This annual, UC-wide…event is focused on educating and empowering students about economic, political and social issues. A goal of the conference is to get people to start thinking about [the relationship between] race, class, gender, sexuality, citizen status, disabilities and other historically underrepresented identities,” stated Adriana Cruz, third-year student and co-chair of the Student of Color Conference (SOCC) planning committee. During their meeting held last Thursday, May 10, committee members made progress in terms of narrowing down their options for a conference theme.

If UC Riverside is to successfully win the bid, Cruz and her peers will need to obtain a broad range of support (in terms of funding, resources and support) from campus administrators and faculty. The team of approximately one dozen committee members have until June 28 to secure funding sources, plan every activity for each day of the conference, identify keynote speakers and other critical factors. Potential workshops would focus on education and race theories, community involvement after graduation, unity among people of color, undocumented students and student of color involvement in campus governments.

In order to help facilitate preparations, the planning committee has taken heed of strategies enacted by last year’s SOCC host: UC Davis. An example is that of creating a theme to help unify the conference activities under a single message; the theme at UC Davis was “E.D.U.C.A.T.E (Elevate, Dedicate, Unify, Celebrate, and Advocate to Empower).” Although a theme has not been officially selected by the planning committee, the general consensus among committee members was that the conference should veer clear of a protest-oriented theme and instead focus on a positive message.

This agreement led to the tentative selection of the theme of healing, which would be illustrated by having the conference revolve around a Native American pow-wow. “[Pow-wows] emphasize healing. A lot of communities of color are hurting for numerous reasons—health-wise, socioeconomically, poverty, crime and things of that nature. That’s what [a] pow-wow is about: healing,” stated ASUCR Vice President of External Affairs Elect Lazaro Cardenas during the meeting.

Cruz noted that UC Riverside has not hosted the SOCC in over 15 years—a statistic that she found alarming given the university’s reputation for being one of the most diverse schools in the nation. “’The University of California, Riverside is one of the most diverse campuses in the nation’—this is what students hear the moment they [begin] a campus tour or step foot onto our campus. My hope for this campus is to live up to this statistic that is always thrown around,” stated Cruz.

The conference, which would take place from Nov. 9-11, is estimated to cost $55,000. Committee members are still deciding on the price of conference admission, although they expressed their desire to make admission free for UC Riverside students. The committee’s next steps include reaching out to campus departments, faculty members and university administrators (including Chancellor White). The group convenes every Thursday at INTN 4043 at 5:10 p.m.

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