36th Annual ALANA Conference Features ‘Joyful Noise’ Theme
The 36th annual ALANA Student Leadership Conference at SUNY Oswego featured events from Sept. 21-26, themed around “Joyful Noise.”
“To me, ‘Joyful Noise’ means spreading love and positivity by making some noise,” said Latino Student Union (LSU) student representative Mathews Frank ’24. “We are not going to be quiet when it comes to spreading positivity; we have to be loud and we have to be proud. We must show people who we are and make sure that our voices are heard.”
Among the weeklong events was a presentation by Newton Paul ’97, who curated an exhibition, “Cuban Revolutionary Graphics Print Art Program,” in the Modern Languages Suite in the Marano Campus Center. The works of art, created between 1949 to 1968 (before, during and following the Cuban Revolution), were a means to share cultural, political, social, spiritual and artistic perspectives both domestically and internationally. The exhibition examined various printmaking techniques by members of the Asociacion de Gradadores de Cuba.
Paul discussed the importance of art and curating a collection, and explained the role that art has played in his own life. He provided tips on how to develop an eye for art, how to navigate art sales and auctions, how to negotiate with artists or their brokers, and the benefits of having invested in a personal collection of artwork.
Other events included Day of Play on the International Day of Peace; Ghanaian Drumming Group; participation in the City of Oswego’s Pride Festival; 12th ALANA Unity Peace Walk from Oswego City Hall to campus followed by a keynote address by Quindell Williams ’11; and Oswego Reading Initiative author A.S. King’s presentation about her shared reading novel, Dig.
Building on a Rich History
The ALANA conference was formed in 1986 and has been an annual tradition on the SUNY Oswego campus ever since. SUNY Oswego’s ALANA conference was founded by students who were determined to facilitate meaningful collaboration between Asian, Latino, African and Native American populations with the goal of exploring and celebrating the multifaceted aspects of culture, diversity and heritage. Those students, whose focus was on unifying all members of our campus community, understood the importance of being leaders who worked together to build and foster an atmosphere of mutual respect within a diverse and inclusive multicultural learning environment.
The ALANA conference was initiated by Tyrone Holmes M’89, then assistant director of Hewitt Union, and Howard Gordon ’74 M’78, now retired executive assistant to the president, along with the multicultural student organizations that are represented by ALANA: African, Latino, Asian and Native American. The conference continued under the influence of the now late Roosevelt Muhammad, assistant dean of students for the Department of Campus Life and director of the LEAD Center, until Campus Life moved from Hewitt Union into the Marano Campus Center and Student Involvement opened in The Point.
The tradition continues today under the guidance of the ALANA Planning Committee that is made up of student leaders, faculty and staff and guided by the Department of Student Engagement and Leadership.
In a statement by Officer in Charge Mary C. Toale, she shared the following message with the campus community: “Let us be united in this year’s conference sessions that promote filling the world with joy. As we embark on the 2022-23 year, let’s work together to keep a vital institutional priority – Inclusive Community – in the forefront of our hearts and minds. SUNY Oswego is a caring learning community; we must always strive for greater understanding and mutual respect for one another.”
ALANA Conference Meaning
The ALANA conference allows students, faculty and staff to reflect on the values of equity and diversity. SUNY Oswego is considered a predominantly white institution (PWI) — as according to SUNY Oswego’s 2020-2021 annual report, 30 percent of total student body and 38 percent of the fall 2020 entering class (including international students) self-identified as Hispanic, African-American, Asian, Native American, Pacific Islander or multi-ethnic.
“A conference like this is so important to have at our PWI because many do not know anything outside of white institutions, or the predominant whiteness in an institution,” said Nathalie Wijerathna ’24, student representative for the Asian Student Association (ASA). “This is a way for us to show students and faculty what is beyond that realm and immerse them in the experience.”
The ALANA conference is important toward creating a sense of belonging for students of color, Frank added.
“They see that the school is predominantly a PWI and it makes them feel uncomfortable,” Frank said. “Something like the ALANA conference is what breaks the discomfort that students have. They see that we are trying, and we are doing something big which makes them change their opinions on what they think about the school.”
With the ALANA conference theme being “Joyful Noise,” there were many events planned to show the joy in the world instead of focusing on the suffering that many in the communities involved in SUNY Oswego’s multicultural student organizations regularly face.
“I think Joyful Noise can represent the sounds you hear when you are close to your roots,” Wijerathna said. “ASA and ASO just did a program about being close to our roots, and some of the discussion was about different cultural greetings. I believe hearing someone say hello to you in your native and/or ethnic language is beautiful and a joyful noise to me. It brings you closer to your roots no matter where you are. That’s how I view joyful noise.”
All events were free for students, faculty, staff and members of the public to attend.
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