Attendants have the opportunity to hear each other’s stories and identify with peers.
A large number of UC Irvine students came together to celebrate ethnic diversity and address issues of race and prejudices during the 24th Annual Students of Color Conference (SOCC) at UC Riverside from Nov. 9 to 11.
Executive Vice President Andrea Gaspar made sure to allocate enough money in the budget to take 140 student delegates to the conference. UC Irvine had the greatest number of students in comparison to the other UCs at the 2012 SOCC.
“We decided that we wanted to take the most students [to the conference] in UCI history,” Gaspar said.
“SOCC is just a weekend, I don’t think you’re going to change the world in one weekend but this is the conference to start conversations, to follow conversations, to bring people together,” Gaspar said.
The University of California Students Association (UCSA), currently organizes three conferences per year for students across the state to attend.
“SOCC is one of our special conferences because it deals with your identity as more than just your identity as a student,” UCSA President and fourth-year UCSD student Raquel Morales said.
According to Morales, there are still students of color who cannot find access to tools and resources necessary to pursuing a higher education.
SOCC is a conference to inform people of the struggles racial, gender, religious, sexual and disabled minorities confront through workshops, seminars, caucuses and active conversations.
“We are not prioritizing a diverse campus because of the UC System, this is why SOCC is so important,” Gaspar said. “Since we don’t have the diversity on campus, the campus can be a hostile environment for students of color.”
“I feel like these are issues aren’t often addressed in everyday life and situations. It’s during this time that people actually become conscious of it. It’s an opportunity to have a space where they can feel safe to talk about it,” Remie Rahman, Planning Committee Chair and 5th year UCR student, said.
Rahman said she wasn’t aware of the many social justice issues until she came to college.
“My first year I wasn’t involved on campus, then my second year I went to SOCC,” Rahman said. “My mind was just completely blown.”
Ever since then, Rahman said she is very involved with issues minorities face and ran with the opportunity to host SOCC when asked by her co-chair Adriana Cruz.
“It’s a lot of work,” Rahman said. “For the past seven to eight months, it has literally taken over my life but honestly I would not have it any other way.”
The Students of Color Conference at UCR started off with Mia Mingus, the keynote speaker.
“It was really amazing,” said second-year UCI student Venus Meza when describing Mingus, a queer disabled woman of color. “I learned that we aren’t very conscious of our disability, it’s something I need to work on.”
Besides keynote speakers, over 50 workshops allowed students a space to discuss issues.
Gabriel Pulido, the host of the “Self Healing through Expression” workshop began writing and performing spoken word as a way to recover from a death in his family.
“I know the power of spoken word and what it can do to people,” Pulido said.
“It’s great that folks trusted us to go on this weekend journey with us to have critical dialogue conversations and build community,” David Chavez, first-year Ph.D student at UC Riverside and host of the “Prison Industrial Complex” seminar, said.
During this interactive and educational seminar, José Gallegos, a 24-year-old youth organizer for the Youth Justice Coalition shared his personal experience with the criminal justice system, bringing some members in the audience to tears.
“I wish we could have one of these every month instead of every year,” Gallegos said. “It’s cool, just look at all the love out here.”
EVP Gaspar said the conference served its purpose as students were driven to an emotional state after hearing the speakers talk.
“Because we have a struggle, we come together,” Gaspar said. “It is something beautiful.”