35th Annual ALANA Conference Focuses on Migration Stories
This year marked the 35th anniversary of SUNY Oswego’s annual ALANA (Asian, Latino, African and Native American) Student Leadership Conference, which took place Sept. 21–27, 2021.
Based on the theme “Migration Stories of Courage,” the ALANA Conference featured a range of presentations, performances, discussions and the 11th annual Peace Walk.
The program also featured two tributes: a page with thank-you messages for President Deborah F. Stanley from the ALANA Planning Committee, the ALANA community and the Student Association, and from Oswego Alumni Association Board of Directors members who have been active in ALANA organizations, Thaina Gonzalez ’92 and Rufaro Matombo ’12; and a page dedicated to a former SUNY Oswego employee Roosevelt Muhammad, who oversaw the ALANA Student Conference from 1991 to 2006 and who died Aug. 23, 2021. Ana Luz ’94 wrote a poem in honor of Roosevelt.
Students Learn About Study Abroad Opportunities
Studying abroad is an excellent opportunity to push yourself and grow as an individual, said Jessica Hernandez ’18, one of two speakers at a discussion for SUNY Oswego’s Education Abroad program on Sept. 22.
The panel included Hernandez, a study abroad coordinator at SUNY Oswego, and Kelsey Gillett ’14, an education abroad specialist at SUNY Oswego. It was held as part of the 35th Annual ALANA Student Leadership Conference.
During the discussion, Hernandez and Gillett spoke about the “5 Big Fs of Study Abroad” to a small audience of students and staff in Marano Campus Center. These 5 “Fs” are fear, funds, faculty support, family and fit.
“A lot of students have a fear of missing out when they’re used to being with their family and friends,” Hernandez said. “A fear of the language barrier can be experienced when they get there. A fear of homesickness can be felt here at Oswego, so just imagine if you’re 3,000 miles away from your family and friends.”
Hernandez said that study abroad programs are an excellent way for to students to grow as people and make new friends in the process.
Gillett addressed the issue of students potentially not being able to afford to take part in a study abroad program.
She said that students should try to take advantage of potential scholarships, as there are many plenty of opportunities that are available to possibly get.
Gillett also discussed the role that family plays in studying abroad, and the issues that can potentially arise.
“Maybe you have never had a chance to travel with your family. In that case, some families panic and think, ‘What would I do if my child was so far away from me in a place that I don’t understand?’” Gillett said. “They might have a lot of questions that you don’t have answers for just yet. That’s okay. We are happy to talk to whoever it is in your life who has questions.”
Gillett, Hernandez and everyone else who works in the Education Abroad Office at SUNY Oswego has traveled and studied abroad at some point. Hernandez said that everyone in the office asked the same questions when they were in college that students ask them now.
Because of this, they are able to understand student’s’ concerns and inform them of what they might want to know while planning to study abroad.
Hernandez addressed the question of how students can find the right fit for their study abroad program. Many students are interested in studying abroad, but are not sure which direction to take.
“We help you find the right program. All we aim to do is basically find the right study abroad program for you guys,” Hernandez said. “If you’re interested in studying abroad, you have to consider how much programs cost, which country to go to, which program to study, your timeline, professional goals, and academic goals.”
Hernandez and Gillett concluded the discussion by telling the audience that it is important for students to do research of their own regarding a potential study abroad program, but they are always available to answer any questions that a student or family member may have.
~ Nick Vassenelli ‘21
Spoken Word Poet Inspires ALANA Attendees through Her Words
At 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, ALANA held a Spoken Word Poetry Program with Jillian Hanesworth in the Marano Campus Center Activity Court. The event opened with the Black Student Union (BSU), thanking everyone who participated in the Unity Peace Walk. BSU then gave flowers to President Stanley, reflecting on her commitment to making Oswego a better place for all.
After President Stanley accepted her flowers, Takayla Beckon ’22, the president of Student Association, led an empowerment exercise, where everyone thought of someone who made a sacrifice to help them get to where they are today. Jillian Hanesworth was then introduced.
Hanesworth, director of Leadership Development at Open Buffalo — a non-profit organization focusing on racial, economic, and ecological justice, is also a teaching artist with the Dunbar Project at Ujia Theater in Buffalo, N.Y. Hanesworth is the City of Buffalo’s first-ever poet laureate, a two-year position she was appointed to by the Buffalo Common Council in March 2021 and a position which asks her to inspire Buffalo through verse. She is also the first poet laureate in the history of Buffalo, making her the first poet to address societal, political, economic and ecological issues through poems for Buffalo.
Hanesworth performed four poems: “Still I Rise,” “Little Black Boy,” “Mask Off” and “Ashe.” Each poem uniquely addressed the need for social change and empowerment. She wrote “Ashe” specifically for Oswego to celebrate 11 years of the college’s Unity Peace Walk. One of her takeaways was, “Celebrate surviving the storm.” Since the founding of America, minorities have been neglected, ignored, judged and silenced, she said. Though progressive actions are eliminating these injustices, there is still a long way to go, she said.
She was able to teach everyone at the event that words are powerful. Words have the power to shape the future generations.
To listen to her spoken word poems, search @PoetJillianHanesworth on Facebook, @Poet_Jillian_Hanesworth on Instagram, and @Poet Jillian Hanesworth on YouTube.
~ Kayla Elfers ‘22
2021 ALANA Conference Concludes with ORI Book Talk
Each year, the Oswego Reading Initiative (ORI) selects a book for the campus community to read over the summer, to be discussed during the fall semester. For 2021, ORI selected Knitting the Fog by Claudia D. Hernández.
Hernández was raised in Guatemala before immigrating to Los Angeles, where she would live with her mother after being cared for by her great aunt and grandmother for years. Hernández now holds an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University.
Knitting the Fog, as described by Hernández’s website, is “the story of 7-year-old Claudia, who wakes up one day to find her mother gone, having fled to the United States to flee domestic abuse and pursue economic prosperity. Claudia and her two older sisters are taken in by their great aunt and their grandmother, their father no longer in the picture. Three years later, her mother returns for her daughters, and the family begins the month-long journey to El Norte. But in Los Angeles, Claudia has trouble assimilating: she doesn’t speak English, and her Spanish sticks out as ‘weird’ in their primarily Mexican neighborhood. When her family returns to Guatemala years later, she is startled to find she no longer belongs there either.”
At her ALANA book presentation on Sept. 27 in the Sheldon Hall Ballroom at SUNY Oswego, Hernández spoke about Knitting the Fog and showed pictures from her photography book Women, Mujeres, Ixoq: Revolutionary Visions. The event filled the ballroom with students, President Deborah F. Stanley and other SUNY Oswego community members in attendance.
In her photography book, Hernández took photos across Central and South America, focusing on women going about their daily lives. Hernández showcased markets selling intricately designed local clothing, women selling produce, and women doing fieldwork or household chores.
Hernández discussed how important the women in her life are to her, primarily focused on her great aunt and grandmother and their impact. Hernández said how her relationship with these two women inspired her works in Knitting the Fog and her photography book.
~ John Custodio ’22
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