Hamilton's BLSU members at the 23rd annual Black Solidarity Conference at Yale.

Hamilton College’s Black and Latinx Student Union (BLSU) joined over 700 participants from other colleges and universities at the 23rd Annual Black Solidarity Conference, held at Yale University from Feb. 8 to 11. This year’s topic was: “Let’s Get It On: Deconstructing Sex, Sexuality, And Gender in the Black Community,” which focused on “challenging traditional notions of sex(uality) and gender while making space to explore our intersectional identities.” This year marked the return of BLSU to the conference, which it last attended in February 2015.

Hamilton sent a record number of 23 representatives to the conference, including Delta Reyes ’20, Amari Dumas ’20, Shenise Duboulay ’20, Edgar Otero ’20, Diamond Jackson ’21, Jules Stevens ’21, Ruben Martinez ’20,  Loren Rodriguez ’20, Shadae Tingman ’20, Baillie Riggs ’20, Aliane Douyon ’20, Gloribel Difo ’20, Kayah Hodge ’21, Rosa Carter ’21, Yvenide Belizaire ’21, Derian De La Torre ’18, Lashawn Russell-Ware ’19, Yassine Dahlek ’19, Syon Powell ’19, Danielle Moni Zo’Obo ’19, Adrian Summers ’19, Southside Area Director Laura Lee Smith ’11, and Associate Professor of Africana Studies Nigel Westmaas.

The conference included presentations on exciting topics, such as queerness in the age of Black Lives Matter, marginalized and erased voices in hip-hop, and black mental and emotional health. The highlight of the conference was the keynote dinner, which featured trans rights activist and New York Times bestselling author Janet Mock.

Mock shared her experience growing up in Hawaii as a black and indigenous Hawaiian trans woman. She used her unique story to communicate the need for intersectional and inclusive movements that include all black and brown people, including queer and trans folk, undocumented people, sex workers, and people with disabilities. She ended her passionate speech by acknowledging and celebrating the power she felt emanating from every Black person in the room, and by urging everyone in attendance to continue giving voice and visualization to Black queer and trans experiences.

Adrian Summers, the former president of BLSU, said he was proud of the student organization’s executive board. “BLSU has been organizing this trip since December 2017, and I was excited to see executive officers of the organization lead with confidence and document our experience. A lack of institutional memory contributed to our organization’s absence from this conference in the years prior, so I am pleased that the majority of the attendees were first year students and sophomores.

“They can truly take all of the information we received this weekend about creating inclusive spaces, absorb it, and take it several steps further: beyond hosting conversations where we identify systems of inequality, to the actual strategizing of how create lasting, structural change. I cannot wait to see how this experience will affect their programming and discussions and ultimately, the campus,” Summers said.

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