More than 300 college students spent the weekend at Yale discussing activism and concerns affecting blacks at this year’s Black Solidarity Conference. The conference, in its eighth consecutive year, was established as an extension of Black Solidarity Day with the goal of emphasizing political power and collective action among blacks.
With the theme “Fault Lines: Where the Responsibility Lies,” the conference included four workshops and two speakers. Discussion topics ranged from social and political issues in black communities to dynamics of black families. But the major focus was action, said Katrina Gipson ’04, who helped organize the event as president of the Black Student Alliance at Yale.
“The main idea of the conference is activism,” Gipson said. “It’s more than a discussion forum, although that is important.”
The conference was co-sponsored by BSAY and the Black Pride Union.
BSAY members said the conference had been criticized for being exclusive. But they emphasized the conference’s general relevance and value.
“Everyone can add something valuable,” BSAY co-Secretary Taiwo Stanback ’05 said. “It’s inclusive, despite what its name might suggest — While it is specific to the black community, it is not exclusive.”
Workshops centered on social, economic and political issues, such as lack of proper health care and disproportionately high rates of teen pregnancies and incarceration. This year’s conference focused on discovering the root of such problems and beginning to formulate a solution, conference participants said.
“The point is not necessarily to come to a conclusion,” BSAY member Daryl McAdoo ’05 said. “Just get people to act, to get involved.”
Sonia Sanchez, a poet and former English professor at Temple University, and Aaron McGruder, creator of “The Boondocks” comic strip, both spoke at the conference.
Addressing students in a poetic style, Sanchez urged her audience to adopt a sense of unity and responsibility.
“I hope that we are not just speaking to ourselves, about ourselves, for ourselves — For what side are these talks intended? And how do you spread the word in your privileged places of employment and your privileged places of education?” Sanchez said.
Her main focus was an adamant call to action.
“You gotta do the work we talked about you doing,” Sanchez said. “You gotta answer the call for this generation. We’re waiting for you — It’s hard being young. Yes, it is. But we took on the world at your age.”
Some comments were directed at Yale students and the Yale community.
“You’re in New Haven — what are you doing for that black community who’s suffering? What child are you tutoring?” she said.
McGruder offered a politically charged critique of the government and the political situation for blacks. He criticized the lack of focus among black leaders and accused them of attacking other black leaders.
Students said they were convinced by McGruder’s humorous delivery.
“For the most part, everyone strongly agreed with his points,” Deana Brown ’06 said. “You see it, but no one actually says it, but he’s saying it — He put it in a sense that we can relate to. A lot of people were laughing and having a really good time. But when you sit back and think about it, it’s really the truth.”