Transforming Communities Event Reiterates Racial Justice is a ‘Movement, Not a Moment’
How can Spartans help create a more just world? One way is to engage with the community in dialogue and action, said Jahmal Williams, director of advocacy for racial justice at San José State University and lead organizer of the Transforming Communities: A Movement to Racial Justice event, which kicks off on Oct. 31.
Offered as a series of community-led panel discussions, lectures, presentations and calls to collective action, the two-week conference will build off the momentum of last year’s inaugural events to highlight the continued work of communities dedicated to anti-racism throughout the South Bay. This year’s theme, “A Movement, Not a Moment,” signals that the commitment to racial equity, justice and liberation is ongoing. It is held in November to recognize Native American Heritage Month.
“Race work intersects everything we do,” said Williams. “If you look at our programming, you can see the intersections that race has with writing, policing, government, social services, education, art — everything. We want to highlight that there aren’t any limits to the work you can do with regards to racial equity and justice. Transforming Communities is just the beginning.”
The event was inspired in part by the university’s long-term and short-term action plans to address systemic racism created in the aftermath of the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in spring 2020. The 2021 conference featured a closing keynote address by Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and San José native Viet Thanh Nguyen, as well as panel discussions, lectures and hybrid presentations by SJSU faculty and community members.
“San José State remains committed to promoting anti-racism and working for racial equity and justice,” said SJSU Interim President Steve Perez. “It is imperative that we maintain the momentum established in 2020 by continuing to create platforms for community dialogue with an eye toward social change.”
SJSU’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion began accepting proposals for suggested programming as early as this spring. Featured community speakers include leaders from nonprofits like Asian Law Alliance; the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) San Francisco Bay Area; the Santa Clara County Library District (SCCLD); the Santa Clara County Department of Public Health; Momentum for Health; Indian Health Center of Santa Clara Valley; the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe; the Asian Prisoner Support Coalition and more.
Partnering SJSU departments and centers include public health; the School of Information; the César Chávez Community Action Center; linguistics and language development; music; creative writing; Chicana and Chicano Studies; SJSU IDEAS Club; SJSU MOSAIC Cross Cultural Center; Native American Student Organization; counselor education; humanities; SJSU Writing Center; SJSU Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion; SJSU Center for Asian and Pacific Islander Student Empowerment and more.
The conference will feature two keynote addresses. Michael Tubbs, former mayor of Stockton, California, and founder of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, will offer an address on Nov. 2 entitled “Understanding Race, Politics, and a Quest to be EPIC.” Assemblymember Ash Kalra and Regina Celestin Williams, executive director of SV@Home, will moderate the discussion.
On Nov. 8, Angelica Cortez, senior vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion at Pacific Clinics and executive director of LEAD Filipino, will give a talk entitled “Don’t Talk About It, Be About It: Art off the Canvas” about the importance of culturally responsive and relevant education, grassroots leadership development, and economic empowerment for minoritized communities during today’s social revolution.
“Our hope is that for two weeks, we want everybody to be thinking about, talking about, learning about and experiencing racial equity and justice work,” said Williams. “We are offering a ton of chances to be involved — in person and online. We don’t want anyone to have a reason to miss out.”
Explore and register for Transforming Communities events Oct. 31–Nov. 11.