Courtesy of Ray Warren Symposium

Ray Warren Symposium focuses on joy, justice

This year’s Ray Warren Symposium on Race and Ethnic Studies will explore the theme of joy and justice through a variety of panel discussions, keynote speakers, performances and workshops.

Kimberly Brodkin, director of the Ray Warren Symposium and associate professor with term of humanities, said the goal of this theme is to think about racial justice from a different perspective.

“When people think and talk in the United States about BIPOC lives, it tends to overwhelmingly be a narrative of trauma and struggle and hardship,” Brodkin said. “The co-chairs wanted to put joy at the center of the discussion of racial justice and liberation, so that trauma and pain … wouldn’t be the defining narrative of BIPOC lives.”

Although the schedule will not be finalized until the end of October, student co-chair Fabi Araya Rodríguez ’23 says the events will broadly explore joy through the lens of racial justice and thriving as a person of color.

“Some of the activities that we’re doing are related to the traditional idea of what joy is, like art,” Araya Rodríguez said. “Others are more related to the idea that (justice is necessary) in order to achieve a joyful life … where people of color do not only have to be constantly fighting off the system but can actually thrive inside of it.”

Brodkin emphasized the variety of events that the symposium will hold.

“There are many different points of entry for students to engage with the symposium based on their academic and personal interests,” Brodkin said. “I would encourage people to really take a long look at the full program schedule.”

One of the student-led events set to take place is the Race Monologues, where students will share an original series of personal narratives concerning race, ethnicity and identity. Race Monologues Coordinator Azucena Morales Santos ’24, who will be working alongside Amelia Madarang ’22 and Shalini Hanstad ’22 in coordinating the event, hopes the presenters will feel comfortable sharing their experiences.  

“I’m not really expecting any specific content, I’m just expecting people to write what they want to write and what they feel is true to themselves,” Morales Santos said. “Within that, I just hope that the people who write and decide to present have a wonderful experience.”

Morales Santos aspires for the Race Monologues to provide a platform to the BIPOC community at Lewis & Clark.  

“This is just for BIPOC people to let out their emotions and speak whatever they want to speak or feel like they need to speak,” Morales Santos said. “So I just hope that after the presentations, BIPOC people feel empowered and heard and seen.”

Another event is the Race Across Disciplinary Boundaries: Student Research Showcase, where students from different areas of study will present on topics relating to race and ethnicity. According to Araya Rodríguez, rather than being specifically tailored to the theme of the symposium, the event will be shaped by the research the presenters have done as students at LC.  

“That’s what that event is for, to give a platform to students of our community to present the work that they’ve done, and how they have connected their research with their understanding of racial justice,” Araya Rodríguez said.       

The keynote speakers for this year’s symposium will be Ashon Crawley, an associate professor of religious studies and African American and African studies at the University of Virginia, and Matika Wilbur, the founder and photographer of a documentary project called Project 562 that aspires to change the way people think about Native America. Both speakers will give their keynote presentations in the Council Chamber at 7 p.m. Wilbur will speak on Nov. 10 and Crawley will speak on Nov. 11.    

Additionally, the symposium will feature a virtual art exhibit with the possibility of physical installations around campus. According to art exhibit co-chair Natalie Kirunda ’24, the submissions have done an excellent job engaging with the theme of joy and justice. 

“We think that it matches with the theme of joy and justice in the sense that people are just putting their hearts out there and being very vulnerable in the paintings that they drew or the drawings that they have,” Kirunda said. “So we’re excited to share it with everyone.”

Kirunda noted how this symposium could mark the first year that the art exhibit features student work online and around campus, although it depends on how many submissions they receive and what form they take. Moving forward, they believe that the virtual gallery could be a great way to preserve the symposium’s art for years to come. 

“Being able to have something that lives on for a while is really nice for students to come back to,” Kirunda said. “To be able to use (the virtual gallery) as a reference for future curators is also really nice and a really good option as a continuity form.”

Fellow art exhibit co-chair Jeremiah Guerrero ’22 is excited to have the opportunity to present the work student artists have created for the symposium. 

 “I think we’re really just trying to exhibit student art,” Guerrero said. “That’s our first and foremost goal: to get the community engagement going and exhibit everyone’s art.”

Students and LC employees are required to bring an identification card to attend. Other attendees will have to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test taken within the previous 72 hours to be admitted. After last year’s entirely-online symposium, this year will largely return to an in-person format, but some events will be available for streaming.

“This year we will be able to have that experience of being in the same physical shared affective space, to laugh and feel all of the feelings together,” Brodkin said. “One of the things that was sad about last year was being all fragmented and isolated.”

The Ray Warren Symposium is still in need of volunteers to help set up the events. Araya Rodríguez stresses the importance of having this volunteer support because it helps them and the other student co-chairs prepare the symposium to the best of their ability. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact kbrodkin@lclark.edu to receive more information.

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