From Friday, April 21st I took a long drive to City Heights neighborhood in San Diego to attend the Militarism and Migration Conference. The conference was an engagement of the community by academics at University of California, San Diego and greatly sponsored by the UC San Diego’s Chancellor’s office with support from many of it’s departments.
The purpose of the conference was to provide a “space to think about moving toward alternate futures. the M&M conference are about from ta conversation about the possibilities of creating better worlds outside of the logics of militarized violence.”
I missed the keynote speaker (thanks Southern Californian traffic) but showed up on time to hear a group of refugee women spoke about their experience transitioning into the San Diego community.
The women spoke about many of their challenges. They face cultural shock because there are many different group of people in which they could not communicate with. It’s been difficult to fill out government papers and to pay for their rent. One woman spoke about how her family does not receive enough public assistance to cover the high rent in San Diego. Her husband had to find a job immediately but was not successful. Their families want to work but many of them are not job ready. They also spoke about challenges their children face. The younger ones in the elementary and middle schools have an easier time transitioning into their American schools but the high school students struggle.
A young participant said: “For young African girls and boys, we should help our parents. This is our time to build something and to help others still in Africa and could not get support. First, to keep our culture. Second, we don’t want to lose our language because if we lose our language we lose our culture. Be good role models for our younger siblings because you cannot teach something good when you do bad things.”
That was powerful because even though she’s young, she is aware of what must be done to preserve her culture as she adjust to the American culture and environment.
On the 2nd day, the academic scholars presented their research. I feel as if this day was focused on the academic research and did not involve the community. The attendees were able to take tour around City Heights but that was as much community as I was exposed to on this day. I had a great time visiting the community resources who came out to table and I enjoyed the Somalian food made from the community women. However, I wish that the academic research included the voices of their subjects as told by them and not through the researchers.
I attended a presentation on Military Technologies, Counterinsurgency, and Cyber Resistance. I didn’t understand how talks about military games affect our communities because I think about how our communities consisting of non-scholars can use this information. At Pan Valley Institute, we constantly have conversations about how academic research can be translated to languages our communities can understand, especially if it talks about us or use us as subjects.
The second presentation I went to was called War Trauma and Memories Across Generation. I found this presentation to be insightful because the researchers talked about how different groups of Asian Americans feel obligated to be successful or to give back. Dr. Yvonne Kwan from Dartmouth researched the voices of Cambodian American students and found that they feel obligated to do better for the sake of those who were lost (died due to the Cambodian genocide). Lisa Ho from UC San Diego captured the voices of Korean Americans who are are descendants of Koreans from the north when Korea was one. These Korean Americans feel obligated they have to continue to help North Korean refugees.
The sense of obligations are not alone with these two groups. In my observation, I feel that many immigrants and refugees feel as if have to do better because we have to make up for those who do not have the opportunities that we do now.
I left San Diego on Sunday morning and was not able to attend the morning panel with high school student activists. I think the organizers did a wonderful job including the community in different segments (but not during the research panels) in this event and the location was in the community, not at the University.
As someone who does both cultural organizing and is also a student at a University, this event showed me ways in which academic can collaborate with communities outside of the academic sector.