Get Woke, Get Active: Race on Campus Conference

Get Woke, Get Active: Race on Campus Conference

This piece has been slightly modified from its original version to be more precise and to correct the spelling of a name.


Eager to engage in conversations surrounding race and community organizing, students and alumni from southern California streamed onto the Johnston complex March 11-12 for the second annual Race on Campus Conference. With a registration list of 240 people, the two-day conference was well equipt with diverse minds. The conference is described on the website as “a multi-racial, multi-skilled, intersectional anti-racist student movement.”


 This space allowed students to participate in two panels per day and various workshops and events, such as a keynote speaking panel and a grass-roots organization presentation. Participants addressed themes such as, empowering identity, contrasting whiteness, spirituality and healing, race and education and theorizing the role of race.


In preparation for the conference, University of Redlands students enrolled in the Race on Campus class in which they were delegated organizational tasks. According to seniors Lucy Poplawska and Manmit Kaur, the students were divided into groups such as logistics, publicity, recruitment, housing and more within which interim decisions were made and then reevaluated by the larger group. Kaur explained that the majority of the work was done outside of class in the form of attending conferences, driving to LA to pick up custom conference hats, or recruiting at nearby schools.


Throughout the months leading up to the event, organizers visualized their goals for the conference. The student director, senior Elana Rapp, explained that her goal was to “build student of color power in terms of them learning what’s possible when they organize together.”


One attendee, a fifth grader named Malinalli Diaz, sees an importance of learning about how race plays into everyday life, “Because people need to know about this and […] that’s why they can learn more things and teach things, and share it and people are aware.”


Daniel Diaz, the advisor for the Race on Campus class, said his goal was to create “institutional memory and legacy” through this conference, and to keep people connected through their website.


“[Our goal is to] create [an online] presence that follows people so that we create opportunity for people to be in the conversation and use that platform to situation ourselves back to physical communities. We’re going to be building this scaffold.”

Conference participants in conversation on Bekins Hall's front lawn during lunch.
Conference participants in conversation on Bekins Hall’s front lawn during lunch.

The conference successfully united students of color and white allies. The conversations did not end in the session rooms. The conference was broken up with a handful of coffee breaks to facilitate discussions between sessions. Diaz described the importance of talking to one another.


“One of the major goals of this conference is to create a space for talks to occur, and not just for people to be able to talk, but to give credit to what dialogue brings forward as credit,”Diaz explained. “People don’t just want to talk and be heard, but they know their stories carry meaning that can be useful for action.”


Rapp said that attendees were, “in awe of the space we had created as a group and the ability for Johnston and the university to support a conference like ours.” The diversity in thought and approaches to activism along with the space to discuss organizing efforts on various campuses left students feeling empowered. The conference will continue to be an annual event and hopefully expand as students continue to foster a network by attending over the years.

Students and alumni, sitting in both desks and on the floor, await a session about grass roots activism.
Students and alumn, sitting in both desks and on the floor, await a session about grass roots activism.


photos contributed by Redlands Bulldog reporter, Hedy Yu