By Marc Abizeid and Annie Liebman

Over 800 students from across the University of California packed their bags and headed to UC Santa Cruz last weekend for the annual Student of Color Conference.

The three-day conference took place in Porter, College 8, and Oakes Colleges and incorporated dozens of events that touched on a wide variety of issues ranging from gender-specific caucuses to workshops that gave high school students tips on how to get into college.

Notable speakers included distinguished activist and Feminist Studies Professor Bettina Aptheker and keynote speaker Elaine Brown, who was the chairperson of the Black Panther Party from 1965 till the mid-seventies.

Brown spoke about her days organizing projects for the poor. The “ghetto garden,” was one such project in which volunteers harvested food and aimed to create sustainable living for poor urban families.

Nathan Murthy, a student from UC Berkeley who attended the conference, said that the event “empowers people of color in a society where Anglo-Saxon males are dominant.” He also added that the conference aimed to break stereotypes and inaccurate images of people of color.

The Men of Color Caucus was an event that encouraged students to face stereotypes placed upon them by society. Facilitators began by asking students to call out male stereotypes. “You have to provide for women,” one man called out. “You can’t cry,” shouted another. Organizers then proceeded to lead a discussion on what they did.

Laurent Policarpio, a fourth-year College 10 student and an conference organizer, said that the event offered positive ideas concerning social progress and multicultural understanding through workshops and caucuses.

“It’s very important to be able to have a venue where students of color can gather, discuss issues and share ideas related to concerns affecting people and their community,” Policarpio said.

Steven Ma, a UCLA grad student, said that one of the reasons UCSC hosted the event this year was in hopes of getting an ethnic studies major on campus. “UC Santa Cruz is such a progressive campus,” Ma said. “It’s weird there isn’t an ethnic studies major here.”

First-year Bill Lewis was one of 120 students from UC Santa Barbara who journeyed up the coast to the conference. Lewis said, “I’m just incredibly curious to see what it’s like for students of color at other places like San Diego, and Santa Cruz, and everywhere else.”