Speakers CeCe McDonald and Franchesca Ramsey keynote the event
Internet personality Franchesca Ramsey and Black Trans Lives Matter activist CeCe McDonald were the headliners of “Change/The Conversation,” a speaking event hosted on Jan. 13, the same day as an event scheduled by the UC Davis College Republicans featuring Breitbart tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos.
The event was held in the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC) Ballroom and was organized by Sam Alavi, a fourth-year sociology major.
Ramsey is a South Florida native and currently lives in New York. She is an active YouTube personality and host for MTV.
“I originally went to the University of Michigan for acting, but after my sophomore [year] transferred to the art institute in Miami Florida and got my BFA in graphic design,” Ramsey said via e-mail. “Today I’m a writer, actor and video blogger in addition to hosting and producing the MTV News web series ‘Decoded.”’
McDonald is a community activist who, according to Alavi, brings important conversation about black lives, transgender lives and America’s prison system to campus.
“I think we lack conversations about black trans women and trans women in general on our campus, so it seemed like a great opportunity to bring her because she brings a great perspective about transgender identities, around race [and] around the intersection of the prison-industrial complex,” Alavi said.
Ramsey said that she planned to bring information about her career and social media to the UC Davis campus.
“I think more activists should be transparent about their mistakes and things they’ve learned during their careers,” Ramsey said via e-mail. “Unfortunately there seems to be a trend of activists using their platforms solely to shame and dig up dirt on others. While I think it’s important to call out problematic people and behaviors as they happen, we have to remember we all started somewhere and unfortunately many people in these spaces present themselves as ‘perfect’ rather than humans who’re constantly in need of self reflection.”
According to Alavi, a “perfect storm” of events set the stage for “Change/The Conversation.”
“There was this perfect storm of events where there was Martin Luther King weekend, Milo [Yiannopoulos] was coming, there has been a lot of tension on campus [and] there has been a lot of discussion about wanting to host an event,” Alavi said. “I reached out to a ton of people and I asked all these different students, ‘If we were going to have an event, who would you want to see?’ And overwhelmingly people said CeCe McDonald and Franchesca Ramsey.”
Alavi said that one of the goals of the event organizers was to bring the event and the ideas discussed to more than just students and faculty of the university.
“We [wanted] to reach a broad audience […] I think there [were] kind of two points to the event: one [was] to create a community space where students who aren’t necessarily hearing this for the first time […] can hear their experiences confirmed and validated by other people, but I think the other aspect [was] we want people who don’t necessarily know everything about social justice […] that they come hear it and get this other perspective too,” Alavi said.
According to Jeanelle Hope, an emcee for “Change/The Conversation” and a cultural studies graduate student, McDonald and Ramsey brought knowledge about racial intolerance to campus.
“McDonald and Ramsey, both social justice warriors and advocates, will certainly bring forth a stimulating discussion addressing: how white supremacy and bigotry cannot be tolerated, how we must collectively work to dismantle systems of oppression and to remind us no matter how dark the future may look, that we matter and that we must resist and dissent for the sake of our existence,” Hope said via e-mail before the event.
While this event was the same night as the Yiannopoulos event, Alavi explained that her concern with the Yiannopoulos event was less with the speaker and more with the interest from students. Alavi hoped that her event would be an “alternative space” for students that night.
“Personally as a student, I am less concerned about Milo [Yiannopoulos…] and more concerned that we have students on campus who want to come hear him speak,” Alavi said. “I think that indicates to me a failure in our education system to teach [about] sexism and racism, homophobia and transphobia and how to identify it and be critical of it. [Our event is] for students who want an alternative space. Not that it should happen instead of Milo’s event, but that we can have this dialogue and those that want to hear it can hear it.”
Written by: Kenton Goldsby — firstname.lastname@example.org