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Uncomfortable identities explored

C. Richard King of Washington State University (left) and Romana Bell (right) of HSU discuss historical white supremacy. Photo credit: Lora Neshovska

By | Lora Neshovska

An event is only defined by its memory or lack thereof. The two-day symposium (Un)Comfortable Identities: Representation of Persecution at Humboldt State University examined the effect of persecution on memory, identity and culture of ethnic groups. The convention held on Oct. 20 and 21 addressed topics of race, sexuality, religion, disability, and gender.

HSU professors and scholars from across the nation presented research and studies in various disciplines pertaining to displacement, persecution, and memory.

Organized by United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM,) the event is part of an ongoing outreach to bring Holocaust studies into North American education via symposia, lectures, and workshops.

Since attending a faculty program hosted by USHMM, Humboldt State Critical Race and Gender Studies (CRGS) professor Maral Attallah and Native American Studies instructor Kerri J. Malloy have been working to bring this type of event to HSU.

“We wanted this to be an opportunity to develop relationships for HSU student internships, for research, and for more faculty to participate in these seminars,” Malloy said.

W. Jake Newsome of the USHMM says this event has been in the works for almost two years. “[Symposiums] are tailored to the local community, so they can be more impactful,” Newsome said. Speakers were selected per panel to complement each other both by USHMM and HSU.

“We worked closely with [Attallah and Malloy] to bring on leading experts on race, identity, and activism,” Newsome said. “We brought in educators from across the country to talk about some of the challenges, strategies, and rewards of teaching topics students might find problematic.”

Ramona Bell, CRGS associate professor at HSU spoke on the persecution of black athletes. “I wanted to show today that they are change agents,” Bell said. “They are resilient and not passive.”

Bell says that getting these topics to be talked about starts with “a realization of your own code of ethics.” Whatever the issue might be, “do you care?” Bell said.

The event was open to the public and brought together an audience of local community members, students, and faculty. “Even if this is happening at Humboldt, it’s benefiting a much larger audience,” Malloy said.

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