Dr. Andre Pinesett opened up Southwestern College’s second annual Men of Color Conference with a message simple enough to fit on his T-shirt, “No excuses just dominate.” He explained to a room full of students, both male and female, how you can succeed in the face of adversity. As an African-American doctor who overcame poverty and a learning disability, it’s something he knows first-hand.
“When outside factors are to blame, take internal control,” he said. “If you got a problem, you got the power to fix it.”
Dr. Pinesett’s message couldn’t be more relevant. Men of color are at a disadvantage in this country. They are more likely to be incarcerated and less likely to go to college than any other racial group, according to NAACP. If you are a young colored man, seeing people like you succeed in the face of adversity can inspire you to thrive as well. That was the goal of the Men of Color Conference.
The conference, organized by the Southwestern College’s Office of Student Equity Programs and Services, was held on Friday, April 20 and it served as a way to empower minority men to succeed. One of the students in attendance was Khalil Adisa, a criminal justice major and the president of the Black Brotherhood Leadership Association
“Seeing people out there who have been through the same things as me and make it, makes me want to continue my education,” Adisa said. “It makes me feel like I’m not alone in what I go through.”
The conference was composed of several keynote speakers and more personal breakout sessions, where attendants could talk one-on-one with the guest speakers. The sessions included “Learning to Code with Apple” presented by Dr. Andrew Currah, “Teaching Latino Men of Color” by Southwestern College Counselor Dr. Arthur Gurracha.
The other keynote speaker was Lalo Alcaraz, a renowned Mexican-American cartoonist who is known for his political editorial cartoons and worked as a cultural consultant on Pixar’s “Coco.”
Alcaraz exhibited some of his work and provided commentary about being Latino artist living in the U.S. and coming from San Diego. Everyone in attendance received a free copy of Alcaraz’s book “Latino USA: A Cartoon History,” and Alcaraz stuck around to sign autographs and take pictures with students.
“Cartoons are communication, you boil down the issue into an image,” Lalo said. “There are people trying to erase our very existence, and it’s been going on for a long time. But we’re not going anywhere.”
The event was concluded with a career panel of Southwestern College faculty members and closing remarks by Governing Board Vice President Roberto Alcantar. Everyone was given a free necktie and Alcantar gave a tutorial on how to tie it.
As the conference came to an end, many students left with the lasting message given to them by Dr. Pinesett that morning.
“I was disadvantaged,” Pinesett said. “I can’t do the same as everyone else and expect to get ahead. You have to work harder than everyone else. And if you can do that, then you will have the advantage, because you will have achieved what they have achieved, with nothing.”