Students of Color Conference Fosters Dialogue on Social Justice Issues

UC Irvine hosted UC Student Association’s 28th annual Students of Color Conference (SOCC) last weekend, Nov. 18-20, at the Student Center and Cross-Cultural Center. In August, UCI won the systemwide bid to host the conference for the first time since 2006.

The weekend featured panels, workshops and discussions led by students of color, who came to UCI in delegations from all nine UC campuses statewide. In total, several hundred undergraduate and graduate students attended the conference.

SOCC is one of three annual conferences coordinated by UCSA, in addition to the UC Student Congress and Student Lobby Conference. SOCC is the only UCSA-led conference focusing solely on addressing the concerns of students of color, and providing students a safe space to discuss issues specific to their communities.

“The major goal of this conference is to create a space to discuss, dissect, and create relevant solutions to issues surrounding students of color. The Students of Color Conference is imperative to the experience of Students of Color within the UC system,” wrote SOCC organizers in a statement. “We believe that there is a crucial need to readdress history and to provide education that empowers our people to fight for justice. We also believe in promoting and modeling transformative and holistic community organizing amongst college students, where young people learn the history of their ancestors and their peers, develop their leadership skills, and are empowered to take charge of their education, community, and lives.”

In addition to UCSA board meetings and caucuses, this year’s SOCC hosted dozens of workshops on Saturday and Sunday including “Combatting Islamophobia,” “Organizing 101,” and “Standing Rock and the Fight for Global Climate Justice.” On Saturday morning, from 8-10 a.m., SOCC also hosted a Resource Fair in the Pacific Ballroom Lobby, showcasing booths by Hearts of Mercy at UCI, the LGBT Resource Center, UC graduate student worker union AFSCME 3299 and UCI’s CARE Center.

Protestors hold signs with slogans like "We Stand with Flint" and "United Against Hate."

Protestors hold signs with slogans like “We Stand with Flint” and “United Against Hate.”

On Saturday afternoon, SOCC participants gathered for a march down Campus Drive, maintaining the SOCC tradition of organizing an “action” at each year’s event. During the action, hundreds of students carried signs and advocated for a variety of issues, ranging from opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline, to support for the Black Lives Matter movement and resistance to president-elect Donald J. Trump.

One of the conference’s keynote events was a live performance of The Transformations Suite, a project by composer, director and pianist Samora Abayomi Pinderhughes. On Saturday night from 8-11 p.m., Pinderhughes performed his project, which is an innovative combination of theater, music and spoken-word poetry focused on resistance movements within African diaspora communities. Prominent topics addressed in the performance, as well as throughout SOCC, included the Black Lives Matter movement and the prison industrial complex. According to ASUCI, which helped organize SOCC events on campus, The Transformations Suite serves as a “soundtrack to … the revolution.”

“The vision for The Transformations Suite is that it will foster dialogue on social justice issues throughout the world, show how art can create social change, contribute to the powerful growing movement on behalf of black lives around the country, and empower all people – especially youth – to make their voices heard,” wrote ASUCI in a press release.

On Sunday, the conference concluded with an array of workshops and caucuses geared toward specific student communities including transfer, differently abled, first generation, international and Muslim students.

SOCC, UCSA’s oldest and largest conference, takes place in November of each year. The host campus of next year’s conference will be chosen in August 2017.