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Filipino activist and professor comes to Mills

Patrick Camangian, above, gave a presentation on racial oppression and historical trauma in higher education. (Hart Rosenberg)
Patrick Camangian, above, gave a presentation on racial oppression and historical trauma in higher education. (Hart Rosenberg)

People of color from all over the East Bay filled up the Rothwell Student Union. Most sat comfortably on the floor with their notebooks and pens at the ready.

Patrick Camangian, associate professor of teacher education at the University of San Francisco, spoke to the Mills community about the practice of teaching with a sensibility toward daily traumas.

Camangian’s presentation,  “From Coping to Hoping: Teaching Youth to Thrive Through Trauma,” took place on Wednesday, Nov. 5. His talk was geared toward educating students and aspiring teachers about the importance of acknowledging oppression that students of color face on a daily basis. His research is based on a ten-year data set that he compiled which is a part of his participatory action research, a form of research that acknowledges a problem and intervenes.

According to Camangian, this oppression is deeply rooted in the history of our country. Colonialists stole resources from the native people, thus robbing the native people of their wealth. This dispossession translated into generations of trauma.

“I am an anti-colonial scholar. To be anti-colonial, we have to look at the ways in which colonialism exists,” Camangian said. “The children in our classrooms are often times the descendants of a dispossessed people.”

As an introduction into how trauma is closely related to the oppression of people of color, Camangian cited Renato Constantino, author of “The Miseducation of the Filipino.” In his work, Constantino speaks on how it is important to evaluate how we are taught how to think.

Camangian argued that this dispossession has translated into trauma that has been passed down through the generations. According to Camangian, urban youth are two times more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder than soldiers in Iraq. He explained that post-traumatic slave syndrome, which is described as a set of behaviors, beliefs and actions related to multi-generational trauma experienced by African-Americans, and historical loss syndrome is a result of institutionalized oppression.

“The strongest vessels of trauma are parents, so it’s passed on,” Camangian said.

People of color internalize their oppression as a result of their trauma going untreated for hundreds of years, Camangian said. Their trauma is a direct result of their oppression, and this intensifies the more it goes unacknowledged.

Camangian spoke about the importance of loving relationships as a form of healing the traumas of oppression.

“Those who have love and belonging have courage,” Camangian said. “Courage is the ability and willingness to share your story from the heart.”

Vanson Nguyen, a math teacher at the College of Alameda, met Camangian at Rock the School Bellsan annual conference about education through hip-hop. Nguyen identified with Camangian’s definition of courage and wants to create a safe space for his students to share their stories with him and with each other.

“Most higher education faculty don’t have graduate coursework on classroom management or even curricular practices; the focus is on being a content expert and less on the delivery,” Nguyen said. “Systemically, community colleges require a master’s degree and provide little professional development for their faculty around these topics.”

Students and teachers from all over the East Bay came to watch his speech at Mills. Alondra Aragon, 18, a first year at San Francisco City College, attended the speech because she hopes to become a teacher herself.

“I want to be a teacher abroad,” Aragon said. “I want to educate, but also heal [the youth].”

Visiting Assistant Professor of teacher education at Mills, Nikole Richardson, encouraged her students to attend the event for her class. Richardson was really interested in learning about what is being explored in regards to what one can do when something traumatic happens and what coping looks like.

“I was really excited about the community that was in the room,” Richardson said. “[The event] brought a lot of people of color to Mills and that room looked really different. I’m really happy that we were a part of that. I think what the talk did is that it really legitimated a lot of the experiences that students, my students, experience.”