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Whitman’s 2024 Power & Privilege Symposium Raises Diverse Voices and Invites Deep Discussion

Image of Linda Sarsour presenting in Reid Campus Center.
I want to live in a world where we do not just talk to each other through a screen or through some messages. I want to talk to you as a person, as a human being. … When we know one another, then we can protect one another. —Linda Sarsour, 2024 P&P Keynote Speaker


On Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, the Whitman College campus community came together for the student-led Power & Privilege Symposium. Classes are not scheduled on this day to give students, faculty and staff the opportunity to attend—and more importantly, engage actively in the sessions and topics at hand.


2024 Theme: Unmasked

According to the student leadership team for the annual symposium, this year’s theme—“Unmasked” —was “a call to action, an invitation to the entirety of the Whitman College community to immerse deep into the distinctions of our individual and collective experiences, and a commitment to fostering meaningful inclusivity and understanding.”

Presenters broached a wide range of topics that affect society and in some cases themselves personally, including accessibility and racism. This year, the addition of guest speakers—sharing from their lived experiences—brought deeper meaning to various topics, including former Washington State Penitentiary inmates who took part in a discussion on mass incarceration.

While presentations focused on building knowledge and understanding, many also included practical and actionable ways to engage with the topics, whether through advocacy, volunteering or financial support.

2024 Keynote Speaker: A Leading Voice in Civil Rights

The Power & Privilege Symposium brought activist, community organizer and author Linda Sarsour to campus to kick off P&P and deliver the keynote address on Wednesday, Feb. 21.

Sarsour is one of the country’s leading voices in the fight for racial, economic, gender and social justice. The Brooklyn-born Palestinian Muslim American community organizer and mother of three is globally-recognized for her award-winning intersectional work on key civil rights topics, including the impact of domestic policies that target Arab and Muslim American communities, mass incarceration and criminal justice, Middle East affairs, immigration policy and voter registration.

Watch the 2024 P&P keynote 

In her talk, Sarsour spoke of her personal grief as a Palestinian but also as an American. "The world isn't just dark in Palestine... it is dark right here in the United States of America," she said. 

As heavy as the topics of the evening were, Sarsour said meeting with Whitman students that day gave her hope for a better, more just future. 

“Even amidst the darkness of the world that is around us, they somehow see something that I don't see. They see something beyond today. They have a vision for a future,” Sarsour said.

“It was the hope that I needed to know that there are these incredible young people that want to change the world.”

Creating Positive Change

For Whitman senior and P&P Symposium Executive Director Brandon Martínez Serrano, a key takeaway from Sarsour’s empowering speech and Thursday’s presentations was, “Your identities are your best form of resistance.” 

“Our personal stories have a great importance in understanding and relating with many of the social issues we are facing globally. Therefore, personal identities become key in the building of solidarities and liberation of all peoples; they are a way in which we can relate with one another for creating positive change,” says the Politics and Psychology double major from San Salvador, El Salvador.

Another member of the student leadership team, Rosaura Albizo, experienced the symposium for the first time—as a first-year student from Boise, Idaho. 

“I'm proud of the team that was able to pull this together and continue a tradition of justice and change within our community,” says Albizo, who served as the Marketing and Communications Director for the symposium.

Whitman's Director of the Intercultural Center, Tebraie Banda-Johns, also congratulated the Whitman students for putting their all into the day and to the change they want to see.

“I am consistently impressed by the dedication and commitment of our students to willingly engage in these conversations with their peers,” said Banda-Johns, who served as the staff advisor for the P&P student leaders.

”Our students are world changers and I am excited to see what they do in the future here on campus and the impact they will make in the world.”

Published on Feb 27, 2024
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