By Marc Abizeid
Angela Davis, one of UC Santa Cruz’s most iconic professors, kicked-off the fifth annual Practical Activism conference Saturday, Oct. 27 with a call for social change.
Davis, a former Black Panther and tenured professor at UCSC, denounced the war in Iraq and called for troop withdrawal during her keynote address. She reminisced about her years with the black radical group and emphasized the importance of fighting for causes that may seem impossible to achieve. “You don’t always win the battle you fight for, but in the process, you bring about enormous change,” Davis said.
Hundreds of students crammed into the College Nine and Ten multipurpose room last Saturday not only to hear Davis speak, but also to attend the day-long event that featured workshops that introduced students to different types of activism on campus.
“I think that the campus needs venues for students and community members to have an outlet to learn more about social justice and activism,” said Mark Baker, who co-founded the Practical Activism conference six years ago. The conference, he said, is a chance for students to get involved and take action against pressing social problems.
During her keynote address, Davis also highlighted the significance and meaning of community. She told students not to think about activism as charity work: “It’s about building community across divisions that are built to keep us apart.”
The conference attracted students with no experience in the field, as well as veteran activists, like Nicole Watson. The first-year College Ten student traveled to New Orleans during her high school years to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, and she remains committed to being a part of the activist community Davis spoke of. “Community is a big thing,” she said. “Not just community in Santa Cruz, but a global community.”
And in the spirit of community involvement, the event provided a venue for dozens of organizers to promote other events and causes relevant to student interests.
Laurent Policarpio, a fourth-year College Ten student, assisted in tabling for the upcoming UC-wide Student of Color Conference (SOCC), to be held this year at UCSC from Nov. 10-12.
Policarpio said that the Practical Activism Conference was a great opportunity to register students for the SOCC. “I feel like a lot of people here at [the Practical Activism] Conference should go to the Student of Color Conference,” he said.
“It’s a great opportunity to share experiences and understand issues that are really affecting people on a personal level, and it’s just a great place to build a community.”