While the 34th edition of the ALANA (African, Latino, Asian and Native American) Student Leadership Conference, Sept. 23 to 30, will take place virtually, it will continue a long tradition of celebrating and promoting diversity, unity and understanding.

Against a national backdrop of ongoing efforts for justice and equality, the student-run conference’s sessions championing inclusion and inspiration start with a civil rights pioneer. Minnijean Brown-Trickey, a lifelong activist and one of the Little Rock Nine who helped desegregate public schools in the 1950s, will serve as opening keynote speaker at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 23.

Walking past armed guards and an angry mob in 1957 on a path to move America forward was only the first chapter in her story as a remarkable social activist. Her decades of passionate support for progress have earned Brown-Trickey the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal, the Spingarn Medal, the Wolf Award and a medal from the W.E.B. DuBois Institute, among other citations. Her online talk is co-sponsored by the ALANA organizations and the Student Association Programming Board.

The Latino Student Union, African Student Association and Caribbean Student Association will moderate and host the ALANA Alumni Leadership virtual panel at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 24, in partnership with the Office of Alumni Affairs.

“You Can’t Fight Racism with Racism,” sponsored by the Latino Student Union and Association of Black Psychologists, will take place at 4 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 25. The event will include a detailed conversation on racism, the different ways it is displayed and how the Latin community can show solidarity.

At noon on Saturday, Sept. 26, the Caribbean Student Association and Image Step Team will present an energetic virtual performance, “Mi Hav Fi Move.” The program will show the unity of many different cultures and races through dance and music, as well as historical significance and change over the past century in dances. 

The annual ALANA Peace Walk will be a virtual event that invites people to participate from anywhere, and register their steps, on Sunday, Sept. 27. Also on Sept. 27, a virtual panel featuring some alumni founding members of the peace walk for its 10th anniversary will take place at 3 p.m., co-sponsored by the Office of Alumni Affairs.

A live, free virtual concert and Q&A with Mandy Gonzalez -- star of “Hamilton,” “In The Heights” and “Wicked” on Broadway -- will take place at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 29. Also with a hit album “Fearless” to her credit, Gonzalez will offer a special virtual performance titled “More Than Fearless” to open the college’s Artswego Performing Arts Series. Tickets, which are free, are available via tickets.oswego.edu.

Tommy Orange, author of the Oswego Reading Initiative selection “There There,” will serve as closing keynote speaker at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 30. His New York Times bestseller follows 12 characters from Native communities all traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow, connected to one another in ways they may not yet realize. 

Representation, inclusion important

“ALANA is so important to many students here at Oswego, especially the community of color. ALANA recognizes all multi-cultural organizations at SUNY Oswego,” said Jayvana Perez, president of the Latino Student Union and a junior double major in criminal justice and in communication and social interaction. “Here students from all age groups and majors can come together and connect on the basics of our culture and our upbringing.”

The conference provides an important sense of belonging to students of color, said Kayla Biles, president of the Black Student Union and a senior double major in finance and in risk management and insurance. “ALANA week gives the school’s community of color the chance to network and connect,” Biles noted. ”This week reminds us that we are there for each other, and anything is possible. This allows us to inform each other and celebrate our heritage and culture.”

In addition to providing representation and inspiration, the conference provides opportunities for students to learn and grow, said Alaces Jewel Sarmiento, president of the Asian Student Association and a senior communication and social interaction major. “It's also a great way to show students how far they can go with the leadership skills they gain from being part of an ALANA organization,” she said. “It's a great way for current students to connect with each other along with staff and alumni, and is one of the best ways to get involved with large scale events on campus.”

Yadira Aranda Burgos, director of correspondence for the Caribbean Student Association and a junior double major in criminal justice and human development, noted that the conference being virtual will allow people from anywhere to experience these important events. “Without ALANA, students and faculty won’t be aware of the amount of culture we have in our school community,” she added. “This is an amazing opportunity for everyone to join, not just people of color but people who want to learn.”

"The ALANA Conference is important in spreading the beauty and diversity in culture," said Abisola Akinfenwa, president of the African Student Organization and a junior electrical and computer engineering major. "I remember being a part of ALANA my freshman year and loving every moment of it."

A conference theme of “United First Nations,” connected to the college’s Institute for Global Engagement celebrating the Year of First Nations, comes together especially in Orange’s closing keynote. The theme “will allow all of us to better understand the importance and significance of First Nations in our world,” said Magdalena Rivera, student involvement advisor for The Point in the Office of Campus Life. “It represents the coming together to understand and celebrate native peoples and their origin story. We must understand there needs to be unity because the same fight is being fought.” 

More information and links to these presentations will be available on the ALANA website, https://www.oswego.edu/alana.