Ray Warren Symposium features storytelling

Program includes visiting keynote speakers Dr. Rebecca Hall, Dr. Oriel María Siu, LC student speakers

Poster of 19th anual symposium
Courtesy of Ray Warren Symposium

The 19th annual Ray Warren Symposium on Race and Ethnic Studies kicked off on Wednesday with Keynote speaker, Dr. Rebecca Hall and will conclude today with the Race Monologues held in Agnes Flanagan Chapel. 

The theme of the symposium is the art of storytelling, which asks people to consider which stories are told and by who. The symposium’s co-chairs Azucena Morales Santos ’24, Carolina Ruíz ’22 and Rocío Yao ’24 came up with the theme after a lot of discussion. 

Photo of three co chairs of the Symposium
Venus Edlin / The Mossy Log

“I love storytelling because it’s a tool that all of us can embody in many different ways and hope that this symposium will teach all of us or at least make all of us think in ways that we can use our own narrative to empower ourselves,” Yao said. “Whether it be by writing a story or writing a children’s book, or writing something that challenges a narrative or simply with the way the closer we dress, or how we talk to our friends and how we engage with the world.”

Yao said that storytelling could be used as a tool of resistance or a tool of oppression. She spoke to how people learn a lot of stories from history textbooks or through oral traditions. She also explained how the form of a story is really important.

“I think for a lot of communities that have been historically oppressed, or have not been giving a formal voice like in academia or in a book, a lot of us have, have resorted in using untraditional storytelling to resist common narratives,” Yao said. “For example, I know that in indigenous communities, not all, but a lot of the stories are maintained alive despite the discrimination despite all the banning of their language through spoken stories.”

Morales Santos echoed this statement about indigenous communities. 

“For me personally, stories hit really close to home because it is through storytelling that I have been able or that I have learned my roots in my lineage,” Morales Santos said. “Because in a dominant story of the history of the Americas or, in general, the voices of my communities and like people have been silenced have been ignored.”

The first event of the symposium was a keynote speech by Dr. Rebecca Hall, who wrote the the award-winning graphic narrative “Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts.” There was a subsequent book signing and reception in Gregg Pavilion.

“She has used graphic novels, like a comic book, and tied it with history very powerfully using the tool of a graphic novel,” Yao said. “With art, you can be imaginative, and the graphic novel was a specific strategic use of literature to convey a certain power. It did help because this was both personal narrative for her and a way for her to also explore the hidden history of woman led slave revolts, which are often forgotten but many historians have been trying to like uncover that story.”

On Thursday there was a songwriting workshop titled “The Power of Narrative” that focused on crafting a story through song. Another event titled “Race Across Disciplinary Boundaries,” featured students’ research that explored issues of race and ethnicity. This featured the work of  Eduardo Beltran ’22, Caitlin Chow-Ise ’23, Emi Olson ’22, Jacques Parker ’23 and Anthi Sklavenitis ’24.

Later that afternoon, there was a panel of speakers that focused on the theme of tattoos. The event was moderated by Assistant Professor Kabir Mansingh Heimsath, and included speakers such as Ashley Antolin, Sydney Hanish ’23, Kahiau K. Chang ’26, Ricky G and Heysus Torralba. The event explored how communities of color have used tattoo work to tell stories and how this historically marginalized art form has been used as a tool of resistance, existence and liberation.

“I was trying my hardest to include something in regards to tattoos within this panel because I feel like Portland is known for tattoo work and I’ve heard many people of color and communities in general express themselves historically, through tattoos,” Yao said. “For example, Pacific Islanders have traditionally used tattoos to express different stories and pass on their history and ancestors.”

Thursday’s events were wrapped up with the second keynote speaker, Dr. Oriel María Siu, who is an educator, scholar and author of multiple children’s books. The event was titled “Undoing Foundational Fairytales One Story at a Time.” 

“She decolonizes the story of Columbus. I think a lot about how my life would have been and how I would have perceived myself differently, Morales Santos said. “If I had read her book when I was little, I would have been thinking about a narrative that centers indigenous or native people and their experiences of resistance and resilience in the face of colonization. For me, personally, it’s really close to home as a daughter of indigenous immigrants who emigrated to the U.S. I’m thinking a lot about just the different dynamics of emigration, colonization and displacement.”

Today is the final day of the Ray Warren Symposium. It includes events such as Ghanaian Drumming at the Gregg Pavilion from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., a performance of “Jordan’s Wisdom” by Students for Cultural Inclusion in Theatre in the Fir Acres Black Box from 1:50 to 2:50 p.m. and a fashion show at Smith Hall from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. The symposium will conclude with “Race Monologues” in the Agnes Flanagan Chapel at 7 p.m. 

“I think that right race monologues are extremely powerful and important, and it does happen every year.” Yao said. “But for those who have not attended before, it’s an event where students of color from LC can read, share their monologues that they’ve written about their personal experiences on campus with joy, grief, anger, or any kind of emotions. It’s a very vulnerable event.”

Jacob Hidalgo ’23 who is an ethic studies student worker, was part of the planning for the Ray Warren Symposium. He is also participating in “Jordan’s Wisdom” and the “Race Monologues.” For Hidalgo, “Race Monologues”  is a space to ensure that BIPOC students are able to have a voice on campus, where no one is going to talk over them, whether in celebration or anger. 

“Ultimately, the main thing that I want people to take away from the Ray Warren Symposium in general, but especially the ‘Race Monologues’ is just to listen and learn,” Hidalgo said. “There have been so many issues with that in the past, with ‘Race Monologues’ especially with people’s teachers assigning it for extra credit for class, even though it is a very vulnerable moment for the students of color who are presenting. We would rather you listen to our experiences and grow as a person, than take notes and analyze what we are saying for credit… take our experiences seriously.”

After the events of the last “Race Monologues” the Race Monologue Presenters wrote a Letter to the Editor that emphasized that “Race Monologues” is about the real vulnerable experiences of BIPOC students, and how disrespectful it was to the performers when white students attended the “Race Monologues” solely for extra credit in their classes.

The doors for the “Race Monologues” open at 6:40 p.m. with first-come seating, and doors will be closed at 7 p.m. or when full capacity is reached. Latecomers will not be admitted. 

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