Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Social Justice Event Post!

For my event this semester I went to the Open Books-Open Minds Student Conference. This conference was held on Friday, April 11th and I attended 12-3pm in the Student Union Ballroom. I originally had to go to this conference for my FYS class, but after sitting through this event and listening to all of the speakers I actually found it really easy to find ways to relate what they were saying to this class. Each year OBOM picks a new book to discuss. The book that was discussed this year was PYM by Mat Johnson, which I didn't read but I ended up looking up more information on it after the event. PYM was based off of Edgar Allen Poe's novel that had to do with racial identities in America and Antarctica and the power of whiteness. The main character in Johnson's book was Chris Jaynes, an African American professor who decided to venture off with a group of other African Americans to find the island in Poe's book. The rest of the story is about what he and his crew find and what they face when they arrive at Antarctica. So anyways, back to the conference. There was a panel of 5 or 6 people in front of us discussing issues and themes they found in this story. The two topics that I thought I could relate to this class were issues including LGBTQ and racism in the book PYM. 

So one of the speakers was talking about racism as a topic. He explained how racism is shown a lot throughout the book PYM. It is displayed in the main characters life, as he is the only African American professor at the college he works at and he was treated differently than other professors with the same degree. Also the island in Antarctica that he wants to explore has a population of only African Americans but it is described as a place of horror. He discussed how the term "whiteness" was shown a lot through this book. This speaker automatically made me think of two of our class readings. Both Privilege, Power, and Difference by Allan Johnson and White Privilege by Peggy McIntosh could relate to this speakers view. Both authors discuss the issues dealing with white privilege and the power that white people hold over others, even when it is unnoticed. This speaker described ways that white privilege is still shown today, and how evident that is even in a book that was only written a few years ago.

Another speaker talked about LGBTQ as a topic. She explained how in the book, there was a gay couple on the ship. They were two males who were part of the all African American crew that the protagonist picked. In the book, the gay couple was documenting their adventure for a blog. The speaker discussed how they were treated differently than the other crew members. They were not treated as equally as others throughout the entire adventure. This speaker's view reminded me of the same views as Gerri August in Safe Spaces. Both the speaker and Gerri August would agree that in order for the couple to have felt welcome on the ship, they would need the support from the rest of the crew and to feel as they are treated with the same respect as the others. Which they should have been! 

This conference actually ended up being a lot more interesting than I thought it would have been! I'm glad I had the opportunity to go and hear some of the student's opinions and relate them back to this class! 

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