Loyola hosted its first Black Lives Matter Conference (BLMC) that addressed social justice and diversity issues on April 2 in the Corboy Law Center at Loyola’s Water Tower Campus.
The full-day event — headed by three Loyola graduate students: Taiwo Adefiyiju, Candace Hairston and Daniel Guzman — aimed to engage the Chicago community in critical dialogue about racism and diversity.
“Our goal was to make the conversations accessible to everyone and create a space of inclusiveness and solidarity,” said Hairston. “We really wanted to emphasize the point that all black lives matter, which meant making sure various black identities and issues were addressed and included.”
To accomplish this, the conference featured a selection of workshops throughout the day.
“They had a lot of different types of presenters, which allowed it not to feel streamlined,” said Hannah Goheen, a 21-year-old junior political science and social work double major.
Goheen was not only an attendee at the BLM conference, but also presented with Rachel Greene, a junior communication studies major. The pair put on a workshop titled, “Supporting Vulnerable Black Communities: Black Children and the BLM Movement.”
Other presentation topics ranged from police brutality and understanding the BLM movement to diversity in education and systematic health inequity for communities of color, which was explained through the example of the lead epidemic in Flint, Michigan.
“We didn’t want to limit the presenters to just academics but to also have community members who are actually out doing the work, too,” said Hairston.
Along with the workshops, attendees and presenters heard from keynote speaker Precious Davis, a social justice and diversity advocate.
“One of the biggest messages I took away [from Davis] was if you see something that you want to see changed, then you create the change yourself,” said Goheen.
Extending beyond students and faculty to include members from the Chicago community and elsewhere, the event brought together more than 80 people.
“I do hope that this conference continues to grow and foster further discussion about the issues at hand before us,” said Jason Pica II, a 20-year-old political science major who served on one of the conference’s planning committees.
“Critical discussion needs to take place while exploring the full context of these issues in order to completely break down the unnecessary barriers which are before black folk,” said Pica.