Several students in the Northwest Community College Initiative (NWCCI) program recently represented their colleges at the Students of Color Conference, an event that gathers together students from community colleges around Washington State. The theme of the conference, which is held annually in Yakima, was “I AM, Living Social Justice through Creative Resistance”. Izza Ulumuddin Ahmad Asshofi, an Indonesian student who studies hospitality and tourism business management at Whatcom Community College, shares his experience attending the 24th Annual Students of Color Conference, which he said “blew his mind”:
I was raised in a secluded village in Indonesia and lived in several places where I have seen with my own eyes many student brawls and conflicts between sympathizers of different political parties. I also often heard tragic stories of contempt for religion, humiliation and racism. That is why we need to continuously act on behalf of humanity—starting today. For me, the 24th annual Students of Color Conference might be the beginning of actualizing the next actions I should take to promote social justice through creative resistance.
The goal of the Students of Color Conference is to support students attending Washington State community and technical colleges in becoming more active proponents of their own education and life choices, and to expand the opportunities and possibilities for students to become agents of change. Therefore, this conference was guided by five main themes: identity development; awareness of others; skills development; social justice and social activism; and personal development.
Before coming to this conference, I attended the Black and Brown Male Summit, a conference held at Highline Community College that aims to empower and motivate young men of color to excel in academics and seek self-excellence. These experiences have led me to see and appreciate differences among people of the world. Even more so, attending the Students of Color Conference helped me realize that differences should be seen from a perspective of mercy, not conflict or malevolence.
The Theatre of the Oppressed for Social Change facilitated by Shoreline Community College was one of the most touching presentations I’ve ever witnessed. It showcased interactive theatre as a way of exploring issues of privilege, power, and difference. The players demonstrated the role of racism and ethnicity in the relationships between asians, blacks and whites. There were several participants who demonstrated alternatives to conflict situations. I was impressed by the words from a woman who said: “I know we are different. I respect you, but you are trying to fracture our relationship. Being different might look strange for you. However, if you embrace it, diversity will be a strength for us.”
Overall, the conference activities ran beyond the visible and tangible aspects of culture and ethnicity. A case in point would be the traditional dance and history of our ancestors, and celebrating how those intangible things add to the uniqueness of individuals and strengthen people within the community. As a result, the more we know about diversity, the more we realize that our attitudes will also constructively or destructively affect others. Finally, a quote from one of the keynote speakers, Erin Jones, stuck with me: “It doesn’t matter where you start; it matters where you finish.” I realized what matters most is how well we live, how well we love, and how well we learn to let go. Therefore, let’s celebrate our lives by celebrating our diversity.
The NWCCI program is part of the Community College Initiative, an exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs.