Mac Civic Forum

First and foremost, I would like to say how impressed I was with the presentations given by Callie and Wes. Wow, I knew us Macalester students were really good at being intelligent, well-spoken, and eloquent, but dang. This was a great learning experience and it makes me feel both humble and proud to be in the presence of such remarkable students, which I’m sure there are many more of in the Macalester community. That said, well done guys! Cool. So, there are a number of things that I will take from the Civic Forum and incorporate into my own definition of global citizenship, as well as keep in mind as I am carrying out my Live it! Project during the summer. I guess I’ll start by doing a lil run-through of the presentations.

First, I really like how Callie began her talk with the poem that asked “what if we got our hopes too high?” I have always been an idealist, and so “getting our hopes too high” is something I’m a big fan of. If we don’t set high aspirations for ourselves and our world, how can we progress as a society? That’s part of what global citizenship entails- having a vision of what a more socially just world looks like, and then taking proactive steps in our daily lives to pursue it. Even on small-scale levels setting the bar too high is never a bad idea. Take yours truly as an example. When I first contacted the UFW inquiring about an internship I didn’t expect that they would respond to my email let alone agree to it (after all, I’m just a nobody college student from Minnesota!). And now I’ll be spending the entire summer in Delano, CA helping them organize for labor rights and interviewing migrant farm workers! That said, Callie is totally right- let’s get our hope too high!

Other aspects that I liked from Callie’s presentation were her definition of leadership, emphasis on collective action, and enthusiasm for community engagement. Callie defined a leader as someone who listens, respects, inspires others, and is able to identify others’ goals. This is not only the kind of leader that I wish to be, but also the kind of global citizen that I aspire to mold myself into. Furthermore, she also highlighted how at the Black Box Theater at Central high school, student/teacher dynamics were reversed, and both the teachers and students were learners to each other. I wish to maintain this kind of mentality when I work with the UFW this summer, and remain fully cognizant of the ways in which the migrant farm workers will influence my ways of thinking and perceptions of the world, just as much as they will be impacted by my knowledge and experiences. Furthermore, one last aspect I will take away from Callie’s presentation is her passion for community engagement, which I feel will be very important for me this summer given the organizing work I will be doing. Reaching across class, race, gender, and other boundaries is a necessary step to take if collective action is to be taken toward reshaping the power dynamics of migrant farm labor in the United States.

Wes’ presentation dealt with the interaction of race and class, and how in the United States the former is rooted in the latter. I thought this was an interesting observation with applicability to my research project. Clearly migrant farm workers are an exploited working class, but76% of migrant farm workers are Mexican immigrants, which provides a racial component to their class status. It is my understanding that the UFW has active campaigns for immigration reform and workers’ rights, so it should be interesting to see how these racial and class dynamics play out in the UFW’s organizing efforts. Furthermore, I would also like to expand upon Wes’s statement about “The American Problem,” which he identified as the tendency for Americans to overemphasis the individual over society. I think Wes really hit the nail on the head with that one. I think the overemphasis on individual differences (especially with regard to race or citizenship status) is one of the main issues preventing a more collective (and consequently stronger) labor movement from emerging in the United States.

Now on to the keynote address given by Professor Ian F. Haney Lopez. Let me begin by saying that this guy was a riot! Seriously, as a speaker this dude was incredible, he really obtained the perfect balance between sarcasm, wise-crack jokes and intellectual, thought-provoking arguments. Plus he didn’t overwhelm/bore me with really lofty academic speech (quite frankly 95% of the time I don’t understand that stuff), which is why I really appreciated his lecture. Anywho, his talk on colorblindness, racialized mass incarceration, the backlash against the Civil Rights movement, and post-racialism and Obama was fascinating and though-provoking, but I think one of the highlights of his presentation was when he called for everyone in the audience to have more race talk, and stressed the importance of dialogue. Evidently, this also includes harassing some random person you don’t know while riding the city bus (he joked about this is in his talk). I think I’ll apply similar tactics when spreading the word about my Live it! Project to my fellow Macalester students. So, if I roll up to you in café mac at the cereal line, don’t be surprised if in between captain-crunchatizing I turn to you and say “Hey! I don’t know you! Wanna learn some crazy cool stuff about migrant farm workers?” Hopefully that should spark a conversation.

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