The MultiCultural Center will host the second annual Students of Color Summit (SOCS) Saturday, May 19. SOCS is a student-run, day-long conference with staff support intended to provide students of color an opportunity to explore their identities and navigate their lives as underrepresented individuals at Cal Poly, which remains the least diverse California State University (CSU). SOCS will feature a variety of resources for students of color, such as workshops, caucuses and a case study.
There will be 18 different workshops ranging in topics, including “Education for Social Justice,” “Digital Blackface in Social Media” and “How to Organize Cultural Clubs Effectively.” The workshops will be taught by students of color and Cal Poly staff and faculty.
The caucuses will differ from the workshops in that they will be identity-based discussions, such as “Womxn of Color” and “Queer and Trans People of Color” where students can unite to explore a particular aspect of their identities such as their race or gender.
First-generation, Filipinx, transgender femme artist and activist Jade Phoenix Martinez will be the keynote speaker.
Martinez is a performing poet, actress, aspiring comedian and informative cultural producer. Her work is centered on changing the dialogue for transgender womxn/femme or feminine-presenting and gender non-conforming people in academia and popular culture.
In an interview with Lambda Literary, Martinez said, “A lot of the power of my work is in my ability to be vulnerable and engaging, and drawing from the intersections is where I am able to make my work reach its peak impact. Where there is connection, there is change, When there is a shared vulnerability amongst us, there is power.”
Black Academic Excellence Center Coordinator Steve Ross will facilitate a case study discussing solutions to a relevant Cal Poly issue.
Liberal studies senior Raha Haghnia said SOCS is also an important day for students of color to heal after the ongoing racist incidents at Cal Poly which have targeted people of color, and especially after Kyler Watkins recently appeared in blackface and Lambda Chi Alpha members were pictured wearing stereotypical gangster attire. Haghnia is one of the SOCS lead coordinators along with comparative ethnic studies junior Riley Wang and computer engineering junior Amber Jaitrong.
“We want folks to build community at this event. It’s a way for students of color to come together and have an opportunity to bridge connections between folks and find mentors and heal,” Haghnia said.
Haghnia also said SOCS will not just be a chance for students of color to socialize, but a time for constructive brainstorming about how to move forward.
Wang discussed productivity as one of the goals of SOCS as well, specifically in relation to the identity-based caucuses.
“Often when people of color get together and talk about their experiences, it turns into trauma bonding, and that’s not productive or beneficial for all of us because we’re just ruminating in those negative experiences that we all have,” Wang said. “We wanted to focus a lot on finding a solution: what are the next steps, what’s a preventative measure? Different things like that so we can look more into preventing or mitigating a problem.”
In addition to providing clarity on how to move forward and solutions to problems people of color at Cal Poly face, SOCS aims to connect freshman students of color with upperclass students of color in an effort to make adjusting to Cal Poly less difficult. Mentorship will play a key role in shaping community building at the summit.
“We’re trying to bridge a connection between the students of color who are leaving, the activists who are leaving and the activists who are incoming to weave a new generation of activists at Cal Poly,” Haghnia said.
Students of color will also have the opportunity to participate in artivism, or art as activism, where students can express their creativity by making t-shirts, buttons and posters after the summit.
Students can register for the summit on the Students of Color Summit Facebook event page.