Madeleine Lee/Staff Photographer

Madeleine Lee
Staff Reporter

Members of the Afrikan Black Coalition (ABC) from 17 University of California and California State universities across California piled into vans and buses early Fri., Feb. 12, to attend a weekend filled with workshops, guest speakers, and social events. All events were centered around ABC’s primary mission to liberate Afrikan people through the cultivation of black consciousness, the building of community leadership, and transformation of the quality of black lives.

A team of 12 University of California, Santa Barbara students spent the better half of 2015 planning the annual Afrikan Black Coalition Conference, hosted at UC Santa Barbara this year.

After participants trickled into Santa Barbara’s Best Western on Friday and spent a fun filled night rollerskating at the campus RecCen, Saturday morning’s welcome conference kicked off the weekend with a more official tone.

At 9 a.m., the Thunderdome was a sea of green, each of the 900 attendees wearing shirts that bore this year’s conference theme, “Planting the Seeds of our Future: Defining Our Next Steps.”

As music blared, dancing broke out and snapchats were taken, Tyrone Wise, a graduate student in education and administration, sat alongside his eleven fellow ABC members of the University of the Pacific chapter. They were still recovering from the six-hour drive from Stockton, Calif., but were overjoyed to be in the midst of it all.

“We’re one of the smaller ABC chapters here,” Wise said, “but we’re happy that we get to represent and be a part of it. I’m definitely looking forward to the opportunity to network and really learn how to be a leader in the movement.”

For Wise and many others, this was the first ABC conference they’d attended. The welcome conference gave attendees a sampling of the weekend to come, as the rhetoric and artistic expression of an original stepping team from Sonoma State University, the voice of Star Bacon of UC Davis, and the collective Black National Anthem were shared.

The remainder of the weekend offered a space of inspiration and solidarity for all in attendance, with over 20 different workshops offered including practical ones like “Scholarships: How to Get Money to Study Abroad,” “Black in Tech” and some with more comprehensive topics like “#MasculinitySoFragile: Redefining Black Masculinity.” The list of guest speakers included notable activists like Umi Selah, co-founder of Dream Defenders, and artists like David Banner, a Grammy Award-winning music producer, recording artist and actor, who shared their experiences to give guidance to the greater movement at hand. A Saturday night Block Party and Sunday night’s private party in The Hub allowed students from different universities a chance to have fun.

The closing ceremony, held early Monday morning, was perhaps the most notable, as ABC’s conference team stood outside North Hall and performed the official ribbon cutting ceremony to commemorate the 1968 takeover display installed in spring 2015.

The same sentiment that echoed through the quad of North Hall in 1968 reverberated for the duration of the weekend as ABC members staked out their own piece of history, and triumph, in their move toward liberation.

“It is our duty to fight,” chanted four Sonoma State women, at the welcome conference Saturday morning. “We have nothing to lose but our chains.”