The Power of Practical Activism

Student activists convene for social justice, anti-imperialism

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Reggie Edmonds, a poet, activist and educator from Richmond, CA performed various spoken word pieces. Photo by Josephine Joliff

Every year, UC Santa Cruz students venture to Colleges Nine and Ten for a chance to learn how to practice activism — both globally and locally.  

Put on by Colleges Nine, Ten and Oakes, the Practical Activism Conference (PAC) is a student-led event that highlights and encourages discourse surrounding accessible activism. This year’s PAC marks the 17th annual on-campus conference where students learned about dismantling oppressive systems. About 300 people attended the daylong Oct. 19 event to turn theory into practice. 

The PAC planning team takes a significant amount of time to coordinate and organize an event like this, said Daphne Mark, a faculty adviser for the PAC planning team. 

“The second that this conference is over, we’re starting next year’s,” Mark said. “It’s kind of an ongoing process.”

While Mark and other faculty advisers lent their support to PAC, students also had their own reasons for attending or even helping plan the conference. 

“The whole point of the conference is that it’s practical and that each workshop has a practical activism component,’’ said Sofia Kooner, a PAC planning team student adviser. “It makes it so that students can actually feel there’s an active way to get involved and it’s not just talking about something in theory.” 

Keynote speaker Morning Star Gali, a UCSC alumna and indigenous rights activist, kicked off the event. Gali detailed several pertinent issues in the indigenous rights movement — indigenous displacement, UCSC’s support of the Mauna Kea telescope and decolonization in the U.S. 

“On a daily basis, we fight not just the genocide of our people, but for visibility,” Gali said to the audience. “We must stand and fight for our survival.” 

Award-winning poet and educator Reggie Edmonds recited two pieces for the audience, touching on themes of police brutality. Both Gali and Edmonds’ keynotes captivated the crowd and received standing ovations.

Edmonds later closed the conference with spoken word poetry, empowering the audience to participate in activism practical to their lives. 

Twenty-four organizations and group managed booths inviting students to engage in practical activism. Each booth offered extensive resources for students interested in learning more about advocacy and activism.

“We have a hotline and you call that hotline if you see ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement], police brutality, anything of federal or city or state oppression,” a YARR representative said. “You call the hotline and we have a group of 13 people that will come out and do legal observation. We also help people with services. If they need lawyers, we are all hooked in with immigration lawyers.”

Following the morning speakers and workshops in the early afternoon, a wide variety of UCSC clubs and associations, including OXFAM, Anakbayan, Tenant Power and WSSC set out tables in the Colleges Nine and Ten Multipurpose Room around 3 p.m. Photo by Josephine Joliff

After checking out the booths and listening to the keynote speakers, attendees could visit workshops in Social Sciences 1 and 2, the Namaste Lounge and Terry Freitas Cafe.

PAC was organized by students, with the help of a few faculty advisers. Faculty adviser Daphne Mark emphasized the experience brings students together in the name of activism. “You know, so many students are learning this absolutely heart-wrenching information in their classes and they really feel like they have nothing that they can do about it,” Mark said. “This is the way to get people educated, engage, activate it.”