A United Front: Organizing Across Divides

Dear friends, classmates, and colleagues,

We’re so excited to welcome you to this year’s Students and Alumni of Color (SAOC) Symposium. As Co-Chairs, we have attempted to bring together alumni and students with diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences to speak on issues we think our community holds most salient.

This year’s Symposium is a testament to the idea that politics are personal. Our panel topics grew organically from conversations we’ve had with our classmates and peers about the most pressing issues of our time–the Supreme Court’s decision to reverse affirmative action for higher education, the viability of social justice movements like #FreeGaza and Black Lives Matter, and the power dynamics and structures that make political change seem impossible. They came from our worries and fears, the policy issues that keep us up at night, the changes we hope to see. But as students, future policymakers, and humans, we hold different identities–and our policy priorities and concerns differ. Movements lose steam because only those directly affected by injustice continue to speak out, the nuance of intersectional identities is often ignored, and people of color are pitted against each other to compete with each other for seemingly limited opportunities and resources.

Whether we’re discussing justice movements, policy change, or access to resources, the common thread required is a sense of solidarity. We need to build a feeling of accountability toward fellow marginalized peoples and communities. We have to see ourselves in each other. Through the programming at this year’s Spring Symposium featuring our powerful alumni speakers, we hope to unpack these ideas. What do we owe one another? How can we build bridges across our diverse communities to inspire mutual strength and solidarity? How can our community accomplish real policy change through collective action?

If anything gives us hope that the answer to the final question is yes, it is the SAOC community that has been built and reinforced over decades. We’re so honored to be in the presence of such esteemed and accomplished alumni, and empathetic, brilliant current students who will soon join their ranks. We look forward to fruitful discussions, thought-provoking insights, and above all, sharing in community with all our attendees.

In solidarity,

Barghav Sivaguru & Cydney Gardner-Brown