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25th Annual Latino/a/x Issues Conference Set March 25 at BGSU


La Prensa Staff


Bowling Green State University is set to host its 25th anniversary Latino/a/x Issues Conference Wednesday, March 25, 2020, 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., at the Bowen Thompson Student Union. This year’s theme will mark that milestone and look back at conferences past.


“It’s awesome and it gives us an opportunity to reflect on how we’ve evolved on this campus and also to celebrate our longevity,” said Dr. Susana Peña, conference coordinator and director of the BGSU School of Cultural and Critical Studies. “You do these annual events and pick up a lot of time and energy from a lot of people. You can get lost in the details, so the 25th anniversary has forced us to reflect on the history and it’s been very exciting.”


The anniversary also presents the opportunity for conference organizers to invite back alumni and past conferees for a reunion of sorts.


“We know that where people are, geographically and other ways, they might not be able to physically attend the conference, so we’ve been trying to put things on social media so that they can engage,” said Dr. Peña. “For example, when we’ve been finding old photographs in the archives, we don’t necessarily know who everybody is. So, we’ve been putting that on social media, trying to crowdsource some captions, which has been very exciting.”


Eventually, there will be a digital exhibit with a photo gallery that people can access online “from all over the world,” if they are unable to attend in person, according to Dr. Peña. That digital exhibit also will include as many posters and programs that conference organizers have been able to locate.


“Obviously, we hope if people can come, they will come,” said Dr. Peña. “We don’t want people to have the online option and opt out from physically being here. There’s nothing like the conversations that happen in those sessions where a student’s presenting. There was one last year where a student was talking about an event on campus and there was someone in the audience who was actually at that protest. That’s amazing when that happens in person.”


There will even be a panel discussion from 3 to 5 p.m. focused on the conference’s history, with the panel made up of current and former conference organizers. The discussion is being billed as “an open conversation” where any past conferees also can share their experiences. The panel talk may be broadcast via Facebook live for yet another digital participation element.


Even the opening conference session will have a nod to the past, as it will include a poem written and read by one of the organizers of the first Latino/a/x Issues Conference, Dr. Francisco Cabanillas, now a longtime BGSU faculty member.


Undergraduate student presentations have become a staple of the conference, as BGSU and other students examine issues and problems facing the Latino community, both locally and across the country. Organizers believe those presentations are becoming more sophisticated every year.


“I think the presentations have changed pretty dramatically over the 25 years. Not all Latino/a/x conferences have had a lot of student presentations, but in the last three or four years, we’ve really focused on that as a priority,” said Dr. Peña. “We give them tips on how to write an abstract, how to do a PowerPoint presentation, so we do think that is having a positive impact.”


Student presentations will cover a wide range of topics this year, including: Latina/o/x Representation and Perceptions from Books to Classrooms, Life as Seen in Chicanoa/o/x Literature, U.S.-Latin America Relations: From Contact to Intervention, From Ancient Knowledge to Current Struggles: Cultural and Social Values in Latin America, and Boricua Even if I was Born on the Moon: Creating a Charity Anthology for Puerto Rico. 


The luncheon keynote speaker will be Rubén Angel, also known as Queer Xicano Chisme, who is a public speaker and socio-cultural critic. Angel was born and grew up in South East Los Angeles, whose social commentary focuses on him being a Chicano and gay. He is self-described as a multi-media content creator, curating a social justice blog, writing and editing essays, hosting and producing podcasts, as well as creating video content and other visual media.


Part of Angel’s appeal to younger audiences is his focus on “chisme,” which is Spanish for “gossip.” That is one way the social commentator gets around being stifled by traditional media for his dual roles as a Latino and gay minority.


“I’m really excited about his presentation. The students on the [conference] committee really advocated for bringing him as a keynote speaker,” said Dr. Peña. “He’s arguing marginalized groups often are not given access to ways to raise their voice, to share their point of view, and that gossip for those populations can become a tool of resistance if you’re denied other ways of speaking your voice.”


Dr. Peña, who has been at BGSU since 2000, credits the evolution of the Latino/a/x Issues Conference to past generations of students on campus, some of whom led protests to force change on issues they saw as unfair to minority groups. Some of those BGSU students now are in influential leadership positions across Northwest Ohio and elsewhere.


“Everything that has been accomplished to bring more Latino studies classes to BGSU, to bring more Latino studies-focused faculty and programming has all been driven, at least in part, if not primarily, by student demands,” she said. “That’s really true at BGSU and true across the country. The Latino Student Union and other student groups play a key role.”


Students, past conferees, and others are being encouraged to pre-register for the conference by March 9, 2020, which is required for the luncheon. Registration is free for BGSU students, $20 for BGSU faculty, staff, and non-BGSU students, and $25 for everyone else. Registration and event information is available at the conference website: www.bgsu.edu/latinoissues.


The conference is part of BGSU’s “Beyond the Dream” series, which focuses on the different cultures across campus. Guest speakers, musicians and multiple academic conferences make up the series of events to provide students, faculty, and staff opportunities to share in the multicultural campus experience.



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Revised: 03/03/20 11:44:16 -0800.




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