Goshen College students had a chance to explore issues of diversity and oppression at the sixth annual North Park University Diversity Conference.

This year, the theme for the conference was “Building an Appetite for Diversity.” It aimed to allow students to explore and converse about issues such as race, ethnicity and gender.  Attendees were offered a variety of workshops and seminars on these topics and there were artistic displays of music, poetry and theater. Students were also given the opportunity to network throughout the day.

Marco Fraticelli, a first-year who attended the event, said, “The first workshop I went to was about systematic oppression, the second one focused on oppression in the media, and the last one focused on hip-hop culture and its effects on the African-American community.”

“There was such a variety of workshops, from how to be a leader with an introverted personality to looking at the achievement gaps in black males,” DaVonne Kramer, Goshen College’s Diverse Student Program coordinator, said.

One of the highlights from this year’s conference was the performance of “Defamation,” an interactive play that explores the issues of race, religion, gender and class.

The conference is hosted by North Park’s Diversity Office, and was first started in 2008. North Park is located in the most diverse neighborhood in the United States. Goshen College’s Diversity Office sponsors students to attend the event.

The conference was open to all Goshen College students.

“We’re all about giving students opportunit[ies] to learn about diversity. It’s the heart of Goshen and the heart of this office to give students opportunit[ies] to learn about diversity. It aligns with what we’re about,” Kramer said.

Often, students will bring back what they learn at this conference, starting new clubs or becoming more involved in diverse groups on campus.

Malcolm Stovall, a sophomore who attended this conference for the second time, voiced what he wants to bring back with him.

“The idea of privilege is what I really want to implement and emphasize on this campus. I feel like we do talk about and familiarize ourselves with a lot of issues of oppression, whether it’s homophobia or sexism,” Stovall continued, saying, “But I think sometimes we miss the fact that we don’t recognize our own privilege, whichever group we’re a part of in these systems of oppression. I think that that can sometimes be very damaging if we don’t understand how we play a role in it and recognize that role and build from there.”

When asked why he felt drawn to this event, Stovall said, “My motivation is always trying to learn something new and even taking myself out of the Goshen College ‘realm’ and opening myself up to different perspectives on how oppression can manifest. I just felt like it was really vital to supplement myself with information and knowledge and facts and context so that I could tell my own story and I can know my own identity in this society.”

Sarah Hofkamp, a sophomore who was present at the conference, said, “I have a lot to learn about diversity and about privilege and about the power that I hold as a white person in our society. I knew that this would be a really good opportunity to do so.”