The University of San Diego welcomes alumni back to campus this weekend for Homecoming festivities, but Chris Wilson’s return earlier in the week produced a fanfare all its own.
Wilson ’03, a former Associated Students president who earned a degree in history and was USD’s first Ethnic Studies graduate, was accompanied by performers from the production, “Hip Hop Saved My Life,” in the Hahn University Center’s Forum rooms.
The troupe performed an artistic mash-up with spoken word, dance, music and art, part of USD’s 21st annual Social Issues Conference — this year’s theme is “Artists Igniting Social Change” — giving a large audience comprised of students, staff and faculty
equal doses entertainment and knowledge.
“This was the way I wanted to come back,” Wilson said. “The Social Issues Conference is so connected to what we want to do. It feels really good to be here at USD.”
The 90-minute show featured local artists bkSoul and Collective Purpose Productions and included USD Ethnic Studies professor Jesse Mills, who played guitar and provided vocal accompaniment on a few songs.
The conference serves as a chance to bring the campus community together to see, hear and learn about social justice issues, improve awareness and, hopefully, for it to inspire them into action. Tuesday night, the hip hop education offered plenty of everything.
“Hip Hop is an American indigenous art form,” said Wilson, who served as a host for the program. “These are artists who made something out of nothing. It’s worth celebrating because Hip Hop gives a voice for the oppressed.”
Having the free event at USD was extra special for Wilson. He was able to give back and spend time with people he’s known and respected since he was a USD student. He personally thanked Chris Nayve, director of USD’s Center for Community Service-Learning (CSL), for helping bring Tuesday’s event onto campus. He was also heartfelt in his reflection for the late Dr. Judy Rauner, one of Wilson’s favorite community service mentors.
Rauner, who passed away in 2009, founded USD’s CSL program in 1986 and served as its first director. Wilson recalled the impact Rauner had on him and on humanity. “She believed in empowering people,” he said. “What she built here has fulfilled the university’s mission. She was a beautiful woman, a beautiful spirit.”
Tuesday’s program served as the designated Dr. Judy Rauner Lecture Series event for the conference.
Wilson felt Rauner would have enjoyed the array of energetic and thought-provoking performers that included Rudy Francisco, Grace Jun and Glen Llorin, the latter better known as DJ Krazykut.
The variety of artistic expression included a version of the 1970s song “Killing Me Softly” to uplifting, straight-talking spoken word cuts, dance exhibitions from bkSoul, a few songs that featured crowd participation and even an invitation for a house party atmosphere as the audience was encouraged to come to the front of the room and show off their dance moves. The overwhelming result was an entertaining evening that ignited social awareness and appreciation for Hip Hop and demonstrated the power of performance.
“What you’re seeing and hearing is art,” Wilson said. “What you have here is love … love can overcome everything. We’re on a mission to change the world.”
— Ryan T. Blystone
Go to Social Issues Conference for the remaining schedule of events.
Photo courtesy of Belinda Lum