On March 2-4, I had the honor of chairing the 15th Annual Alumni of Color Conference (AOCC) with the theme Define. Defy. Dismantle: Forging Our Legacy Through Activism. It was hands down the most rewarding experience for me as a student at HGSE. Five months of planning came together for a weekend filled with social activism. We had over 700 registered participants which consisted of students, faculty, staff, alumni, youth, scholars, and citizens from across the country. We had 7 keynote speakers, a special guest, and about 45 workshops over the course of six breakout sessions.
As a Tri-Chair, I was tasked with turning an idea into a full 3 day conference. Before this year, the largest event I planned was a male scholarship pageant through my sorority (Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.) in undergrad. I had never planned a conference before and was honestly unaware of all it would take to successfully execute this conference. I quickly found out the amount of work, dedication, and sacrifice it would take and I am truly appreciative of the phenomenal leadership team that helped make this conference possible.
On Thursday, March 2, Dr. Peter T. Keo provided a kickoff for the conference. He gave a speech that energized participants and excited the crowd about what was to come over the course of the weekend. Many participants commented on the appreciation of hearing a man of Asian descent speak about dismantling racism from a perspective that is often not highlighted.
Friday, there were three breakout sessions and an Askwith Forum. The Askwith forum titled “Take Action: Advancing Justice and Equity in Today’s Climate” was composed of keynote speakers Dr. Arshad I. Ali, Ed.M.’04, Assemblyman Michael A. Blake, Albino Garcia, Jr., and Simran Noor with Christina “V” Villarreal, Ed.M.’05 moderating the panel. We also gave the Courage Award to the Denver Broncos’ linebacker Brandon Marshall for having the strength to fight for justice in regards to police brutality.
For a full video of the Askwith Forum, check out the live video on the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Facebook page from March 3rd. Also, check out this article I am featured in about the conference and specifically the Askwith Forum.
On Saturday, we had three more breakout sessions, a conversation with Brandon Marshall, granted three awards, and welcomed two additional keynote speakers: Dr. Rhonda Williams and Dr. Bettina Love. All of the speakers were phenomenal. Dr. Williams used spoken word to defy systems of oppression and Dr. Love discussed her curriculum on hip-hop education and fired up the crowd as she provided ways to dismantle oppression in education. I am beyond proud of the final product of AOCC 2017. It will be my greatest memory and experience at HGSE.
I would love to help recruit the next Master’s Tri-Chair for AOCC 2018! I can give you the ins and outs of the planning process. I had to make sacrifices and give up a lot of free time because of this conference, but it was the BEST decision I made as a student here at HGSE.
Rashaida Melvin is a Master’s of Education candidate in the School Leadership Program. She has taught for three years and is excited about moving from the classroom into leadership. Rashaida is looking forward to serving both teachers and students in the future.