By Van “Valerie” Vu
On April 11-13, I was selected as one of the student leaders who represent for Green River Community College to attend the 23rd annual Student of Color Conference in Yakima, Washington. It was such an honor for me because the conference educates me about different cultures, helps me to be more aware about social issues, develop leadership skills, as well as gives me fun and memorable experience. This year, Green River Community College brings 18 student representatives and three advisors to join with other colleges in Washington. Everyone in the conference respects each other regardless of where you come from.
The conference offers over 60 different workshops that concentrate on five themes: identify development, awareness of others, skills development, social justice and social activism, and personal development. There are also four keynote speakers, along with the sessions.
My first workshop, International identity, is one of my favorites. Many international students came to this session and shared their stories, their struggles in a foreign country, their experiences with stereotypes and biases, etc. Faisal Jaswal, the presenter of the workshop, came to the U.S as an international student, and now he works for Bellevue College. He has a great influence on us by encouraging us to be more involved, apply for foundation scholarship, and be a better global citizen.
On the second session, we were challenged to increase our awareness for other races and ethnicity. I chose the Native American’s workshop and this was the first time I learnt about the first people’s culture. I gained knowledge about how U.S Government’s policies have tried to destroy, assimilate and make the Indian culture vanish. The Indigenous community is fighting for their land by starting the Idle No More movement, and they had protested in downtown Seattle. I feel that I have a mission of not only respecting other’s races, but also help them to protect and keep their traditional values. This workshop really helped me to open my eyes.
The most inspiring and empowering workshop for me is “The Power of Sisterhood and Safe Spaces”. Sisterhood is a place where all women, especially women of color, can connect, protect each other, share their struggles, their motivation to succeed, etc. The workshop was really interesting because all women of color had the rights to speak up first. The white women and men had to be silent and listen to us, and they can only share their thoughts after us. Most of them understood more about gender equality and give more respect to women of color. Sisterhood helps all the women to be more resilient, confident of being ourselves, and motives us to be more successful in the society where men still have stronger dominance. It is amazing to see how all women in the room mentor each other and make such a strong ally.
Besides education session, we also had fun with flash mob with the song “Move your body” of Beyoncé. Geo, my friend from South Puget Sound Community College, has the idea of making the flash mob. We practiced together and finally performed on the breakfast on second day of the conference. SOCC gave everyone a good time with an open mic in the first night, and an exciting dance party the last night. Everyone had a great time, and I was also happy to make new friends from other colleges during the whole conference.
I also learnt many more lessons from the conference although I could not attend all workshops. In a nutshell, after the conference, I am more proud of the culture where I come from; I feel the responsibility of embracing and protecting it. I am also more aware about other races, and this is the right time to stand up for others. The conference opens my eyes about various social justice and activism. I am empowered to make a change and I believe that one day discrimination will disappear. If we work together, be aware, educate and support each other, diversity will be embraced everywhere. I strongly recommend you to interact and be open to all communities, be assertive, and fight against ignorance, jokes, prejudice, or distort information. Student of Color Conference definitely gave me a blast during my learning experience in the United States.