Ikram Ul Haq is a business student from Pakistan studying at Pierce College. In this blog piece he writes about the profound experience he had as a participant in the Washington State Students of Color Conference. Ikram was one of 800 students selected through a competitive application process to attend the conference. This year NWCCI was proud to have students from all three of our colleges particpate in the conference!
I want to share one of my wonderful experiences from “Students of Color Conference.” Last month on April 23rd-25th, more than 30 Pierce College students joined 800 of their companions from different community colleges all over the state for the 25th Annual Washington State Students of Color Conference in Yakima. I have never been to a large conference like this before. The three-day conference permitted students to examine topics including ethnic and racial character improvement, scholarly achievement, social equality and intercultural correspondence.
I participated in several sessions, that were really informative and full of knowledge; especially the international student session led by Faisal Jaiswal. I like the way he discussed problems that international student face; for example, he discussed language barriers, cultural differences, ethnicity, etc. It was very useful because when I came to the United States I faced the problems of language barrier and cultural differences. I felt very good when he discussed all the common issues international students encounter.
I was also really inspired by keynote speaker, Aisha Fukushima, who is a public speaker, educator, singer and “Raptivist” (rap activist). As a leader of the RAPtivism, project Aisha Fukushima has engaged hip hop communities across the United States, France to Morocco, Japan, Germany and further. As a public speaker, she combines the art of performance and lecture which is really inspiring. She gave a speech with a hip hop theme that focused on how we can build solidarity through songs and art. She performed her song and showed us how we can mobilize through hip hop culture.
There was another keynote speaker Lydia Brown, a Chinese-American, disabled activist and writer, whose work focuses on violence against disabled people. She is also the president of the Washington Metro Disabled Students. She was honored by the White House as a champion of change for disability rights.
The chance to go to Yakima WA with a gathering of my fellow students and friends for the yearly Students of Color Conference offered me an uncommon opportunity to step far from the spin of everyday life and required some investment to reflect. I would say that my experience was exceptionally instructive, yet passionate. I discovered that anybody can be a casualty of stereotyping and preference and that even I could be a facilitator to these things without knowing it! When all the students came back together on the last morning of the three-day conference, I began to reflect on the importance of stories in a community. Stories are what allow people to find common ground, to learn from each other, and come to appreciate differences.
The objective of the conference is to bolster Washington State students to be more dynamic advocates for social change, through the opportunities of training and positive life decisions. The hope is that they would also extend the opportunities and conceivable outcomes to other students, as specialists of progress.
It was a life changing experience for me. At first, I thought I was going to find out about diversity, multi-culture, and social activities, however, after the conference, I found that I was adapting and applying all the things I had learned to myself. Through the Students of Color Conference, I discovered myself, learned more about my past and even discovered reasons for my own scars.
The NWCCI program is part of the Community College Initiative, an exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The opinions expressed in this blog by writers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Northwest Community College Initiative program, Edmonds Community College, Whatcom Community College, Pierce College, the United States Department of State or any employee thereof. NWCCI and Edmonds Community College are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied by student bloggers.