For the 13th year, Lewis & Clark is hosting the Ray Warren Symposium on Race and Ethnic Studies, a three-day event of panels covering themes of race in a historical and modern context. Running from Nov. 9-11, the theme of this year’s symposium is “Home: Race, Place, and Belonging.”
Early on in the planning process, which took place during the Spring 2016 semester, the co-chairs and planning committee considered working with the Environmental Affairs Symposium, for which the theme this year was Equity and Earth: Intersections of Social Justice and the Environment. Thinking about the intersection of environment with race and ethnicity helped lead the Symposium planners to the idea of “home.”
“Home was chosen because our community threw out ideas about doing a symposium on family, or land, or environmental disaster,” Symposium co-chair Lani Felicitas ’18 said. “Home seemed to be some kind of center in all of that. Especially with the events that occurred last fall after the symposium and even the efforts to make LC a more welcoming and equitable place, home is a conversation we as a community need to have.”
“Part of why I suggested home is because there it’s a place to explore displacement and disaster, but it’s also a source of joy and hope,” co-chair Lesedi Khabele-Stevens ’17 said. “Everybody experiences home differently.”
The symposium is comprised of panels, an art show, the Race Monologues—an event in which students write and perform monologues based on their own experiences with race and ethnicity—and two keynote events. The Wednesday keynote is “No Place Like Home: Housing and Displacement in Portland.” Professor Reiko Hillyer is moderating and panel members include Lisa Bates, Carol Chan, Katrina Holland and Cameron Whitten. Thursday’s keynote is Jeff Chang, who is giving a talk titled “‘You,’ ‘Me,’ and ‘We’: Difference, Belonging, and Community in the Era of Black Lives Matter.”
“We have a panel on housing policy in Portland, a panel on land and land rights, and a panel on what we’re calling transitory space to look at the different ways in which people are moving,” Khabele-Stevens said. “We also have a panel around food, around black identity in majority white cities and others. We’re trying to look at the different ways in which home is both a physical place or isn’t a physical place in some cases. Also the ways in which home helps produce identity and creates a sense of community.”
Certain parts of the symposium are not required to follow the theme of home. Co-chair Mikeala Owen ’17 said that one of the panels is for students researching topics in race and ethnicity but whose subjects do not fit in with the theme of the symposium. She added that the Race Monologues can take theme of home into consideration, but are not required to.
“It’s about students’ experiences with race and what they want to share with the audience,” Owen said.
“We also have our art show, in Stamm,” Owen said. “We ask for submissions from people at LC and the community, you don’t have to even be in the Portland area to submit [art].”
All of the co-chairs expressed their excitement for keynote speaker Jeff Chang’s address on Nov. 10.
“I’m still in shock that Jeff Chang is the keynote speaker for this year’s [symposium],” Felicitas said. “His new book, ‘We Gon’ Be Alright,’ is so [relevant] and is a critical and beautiful reflection on the state of this nation … His final chapter before the conclusion about his feelings on being Asian American and ‘in-between-ness’ inspired me to write a Race Monologue.”
“I hope students take what they learn [at the symposium] and have a deeper sense of how it unfolds in their own communities,” Felicitas said. “Students at LC are smart, in-the-know and are aware of their responsibility towards creating a better campus. The [symposium] is an annual opportunity and a significant step towards creating a more just and accountable world; race and ethnicity is just one part of it, but it is a critical part of it. I hope students continue, or at least begin to make sense of their own entry points and methods to understanding how we belong, can belong, and cannot belong to one another with what they’ve taken from the symposium.”