26th annual Building Bridges Conference set for Saturday

The annual student-run event will focus on collective liberation in this time of social upheaval.
Posted on March 1st, 2021 by

by Ava Gross ’22

When Amanda Braun ‘21 and Chelsea Boyden ‘21 began planning the 2021 Building Bridges Conference last summer, they had big plans. In the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the co-chairs thought that public health would be a relevant and timely focus for the conference, but then George Floyd was killed. Following the series of historical events that took place after George Floyd’s death, Braun and Boyden knew that they were going to have to shift their focus. 


This year’s virtual conference “Revolutionizing Tomorrow: Envisioning a World of Collective Liberation,” will take place on Saturday, March 6 from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and focus on providing attendees with a chance to explore what could be if we all recognize the interconnectedness in the fight for liberation.

According to the conference website, the executive board wanted to center the conference around the radical aspects of joy, hope, and community in a seemingly broken world. “Collective liberation is crucial to our future and yet thinking and talking about it is still deemed as radical and revolutionary,” Braun said. “We’re hoping that this conference is able to start conversations that normalize our need for one another and how those needs are intimately connected to each person’s liberation.”

To co-chair Chelsea Boyden, engaging in conversations about collective liberation is also a process of self-reflection that requires us as individuals to be incredibly honest about ourselves and how our identities impact the spaces that we interact with. “I believe that this process of self-reflexivity is important because in all actuality, so much about advancing social justice and collective liberation is reflecting on our own roles in oppressive systems and society in general.”

The conference will feature two highlighted addresses from Olakemi, a spiritual adviser whose platform is centered on collective liberation, and Opal Tometi, one of the co-founders of Black Lives Matter. Throughout the day, viewers will have the opportunity to hear the highlighted addresses, be involved with workshops put on by local activists and organizations, and view a panel discussion with the workshop presenters where they discuss how we go about moving forward.

Opal Tometi

This year, the conference will be hosted in a completely virtual format. “At first, we felt pretty confined by COVID, but with the help of the amazing production team at Gustavus, I think Building Bridges has found that the all-virtual format will open up a conference approach which has never been done before,” Braun said. 

“We are living through a global pandemic, dealing with environmental degradation, seeing innocent people murdered because of their skin color or other social identities, and more. It’s hard to feel anything but hopeless. We believe this conference will remind us all to lean on one another, and that when we have each other’s backs, we’re better people, ” Braun and Boyden stated. “Our hope is that Gustavus students and faculty will leave the conference with a better understanding of their role in advancing collective liberation and leave with a new sense of agency and hope.” 

Click here access the Building Bridges website and the livestreamed event.

Building Bridges is a student organization at Gustavus that has been operating on campus since 1995. Their signature event, the Building Bridges Conference, focuses on educating and informing community members on issues relating to social justice, diversity, and inclusion. Members of Building Bridges work year- long to educate and bring awareness to significant issues, and also strive to give attendees the tools they need to involve themselves in social justice issues. 


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin


Comments are closed.