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‘Passing the Torch of Knowledge’: HGSE Celebrates the 20th Alumni of Color Conference

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The Harvard Graduate School of Education hosted its 20th annual Alumni of Color Conference on Friday and Saturday, with a theme of “Passing the Torch of Knowledge: Movements Toward Liberation Through Education.”

More than 500 attendees registered for the conference. Harvard students, faculty, staff and HGSE alumni from the Class of 2021 were invited to participate in person while all other attendees joined the conference virtually.

Friday’s events began with a keynote panel on the path to equality in education moderated by HGSE student and AOCC co-chair Maungsai "Sai" Somboon. The panel featured HGSE alumni Jaynemarie E. Angbah, James E. O. Hankins II, Eurmon Hervey Jr., Raul “Ito” Juarez, Daren A. Graves, and Timothy Begaye.

“Throughout history, educators have been on the front lines and have illuminated our classrooms and communities with the torch of knowledge,” Somboon said in his introduction to Saturday’s events. “We come together this weekend to explore historic and contemporary movements in education that have effectively challenged the system, engage experts through collaboration and discourse, and continue the fight towards liberty through education.”

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HGSE student Troy D. Lewis, another co-chair of the AOCC, added that he hoped the conference would inspire attendees to take action to improve the state of equity in education.

“We're here to charge people with action, and so I'm hoping that everyone is having an experience that allows them to think deeply about what's happening today in the field of education,” he said.

Saturday’s events included a virtual expo and a series of breakout sessions, which discussed topics such as the role of “linguistic heritage” in the college experience of Black students and how stereotypes of white women contribute to white supremacy.

Nancy Chen, an HGSE student who attended the conference in person, commended the increased accessibility of the conference enabled by the option to join virtually.

“I wish that there were more people who attended the in-person one, but I like that it was accessible just for everyone” they said. “It did feel like they were included, and we were able to hear a lot of different perspectives that way.”

Conference organizers presented four awards during the event.

HGSE Assistant Director for Teaching and Teacher Leadership Andrena Mason received the Tina Hansar Award for Educational Equity, which recognizes a staff member who has promoted compassion and inclusivity within the school.

Cecelia Di Mino — an HGSE student who serves as one of the school’s sustainability fellows — earned the Kolajo Paul Afolabi Award for Commitment to Educational Justice, while HGSE lecturer Christina Villarreal was awarded the Faculty Award for Educational Equity.

Nanette L. “Nan” Reynolds won the final award presented, the Alumni Achievement Award. The prize honors an HGSE alumnus who “has demonstrated a commitment to equity in issues of race, class, and education,” per the conference website.

The conference concluded Saturday night with a session of Global Shakeout — a type of dance lesson created by HGSE student Manuela G. Welton that aims to reduce stress levels — followed by dinner and a hybrid dance party with DJ Justis Lopez.

—Staff writer Paton D. Roberts can be reached at paton.roberts@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter at @paton_dr.

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