Ethnic Studies Forum


The 2022-2023 school year marks three years since Ethnic Studies classes became a graduation requirement for SBUSD high school students. Ethnic Studies classes, such as Ethnic Studies English for 9th graders, were first taught during the 2020-2021 school year. In the years since, opportunities to take Ethnic Studies classes have expanded, and the Ethnic Studies curriculum has been taught to thousands of students. This accomplishment was celebrated on Wednesday, May 3, with the “Planting the Seeds of Change” Ethnic Studies community forum. 

The event took place from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Alhecama Theater in downtown Santa Barbara. It began with time for attendees to visit tables that a variety of community organizations had set up. The event featured tables from Ethnic Studies Now! Santa Barbara, Youth Makers Market, the San Marcos Ethnic Studies Club, and more. The tables held various interactive activities, including painting flower pots, adding identity leaves to an identi-tree, and making custom buttons.

Chumas Singers at the Ethnic Studies Event

After the period for mingling had ended, the program commenced with music from Chumash singers and a land acknowledgement. Dinner was then served, and attendees were encouraged to make their way to the theater, where Artnelson Concordia and Carlos Estrada presented on the importance of Ethnic Studies classes and the progress of those classes in our district. They honored Ethnic Studies advocate Gloria Liggett for her years of work in Santa Barbara, and spoke about El Plan de Santa Barbara, a plan created by Chicano students at UCSB in 1969 to support Chicano students in higher education. The Santa Barbara High School Folklorico Troupe, introduced by Santa Barbara High School teacher Joseph Velasco, then performed multiple dances.

The event concluded with a few last words from Artnelson and Carlos, and a raffle in which sweatshirts, t-shirts, posters, and more were given out. Overall, the event had a very positive and celebratory energy to it, and a much larger turnout than expected.

“I liked to see that there was a folklorico group, amazing food, and it was nice to see everyone getting along,” said San Marcos senior Alejandra Vargas. “I do really think this event is important, I really liked it, and I think that they should do it more often than annually.”

In the future, Ethnic Studies advocates hope to expand the Ethnic Studies department even further, and to work on making SBCC courses such as African American studies, Chicano studies, and Asian American studies more accessible to high school students. Presenters at the event emphasized that ethnic studies classes are important now more than ever, and hopefully more progress will be made in the years to come.