Last weekend, the University of Redlands Johnston Center for Integrative Studies hosted Race on Campus (ROC), an academic festival with the theme “radical celebration.” Students across California, from as far away as University of San Francisco and University of California, Davis, attended ROC to give talks, lead workshops, and celebrate heritage and compassion.
Johnston student Blair Newman ’18 explained that this was ROC’s third iteration and that every year has been a little different. This year, the student committee organized as a collective and cast ROC an academic festival rather than a conference.
“The collective came up with the theme ‘radical celebration’ in response to our desire to acknowledge that there is a lot wrong with race on campuses nationwide,” Newman shared. “There is so much to celebrate about our peers, but it can be hard to celebrate when there is so much pain. I hope Race on Campus attendees were able to share knowledge, celebrate others, and leave with a feeling of being celebrated.”
Several talks were given during the academic festival, but Newman cited Pan Afrikan Studies: Multidisciplinary Approach to Education as the one that most stood out to her. A panel of California State University, Los Angeles students—Del Wenn, Stephen Fossett, and Amiri Mahnzili—discussed the difference between education and schooling and addressed the racial discrepancy in college graduation rates, calling for classroom narratives that reflect the experience of all students.
Other talks throughout the weekend included topics surrounding first-generation college students, queerness, gun reform, safe spaces, and racial consciousness. Attendees were also able to participate in activities like t-shirt making and open mic, as well as workshops such as Channeling Trauma and Dance and Intangible Heritage of the Body.
The keynote panel was held on the steps of Bekins Hall on Saturday afternoon.
“It’s really hard being young and being an activist.,” said panelist Amani Kaur, a junior at Grover Cleveland High School who is a photographer and aspiring filmmaker with the goal of showing that “brown is beautiful.” “My parents didn’t think that a little girl could have political views, and a lot of other people are surprised when I want to talk about race or women’s issues. I think that’s one of the biggest problems: I go into spaces not only as a youth, but also as a woman of color, and people expect me to just stay in the background.”
Kaur has participated in several walk-outs and marches and has founded several clubs at her school.
Panelist Leonardo Juarez Diaz from Hartnell College said his main goal was to help people, especially undocumented individuals who don’t feel safe. “I see a lot of distress, segregation, and discrimination in my community, and I’m still trying to figure out a way to fix that,” he said.
Disappointed in the general lack of support for the undocumented community, Juarez Diaz has allied himself with a program called Community Organizing Relations with Power and Action, which helps low-income families obtain access to healthcare.
Giana Mitchell ’21, representing the University of Redlands on the panel, said she feels privileged to be attending a university and encouraged the audience to use that privilege to create forums, clubs, and spaces where conversations like those at Race on Campus can continue to take place.
“My current focus is understanding my multiracial identity,” said Mitchell. “Going forward, I’d like to help others learn and recognize how institutions have been set up to damage certain groups.”
Richard Avilés, who will be president of University of Southern California’s Latino Graduate Student Association this fall and hopes one day to run for city council, said, “My work is about radicalizing social work. I really challenge social work practice and what it means to be a social worker of color who has constantly been thought about as the client but is now the therapist and provider. But first and foremost, I’m an artist. My training is in dance, and my work is about reclaiming the stage, because there aren’t many people on stage who look like me.”