On Jan. 29, Salt Lake Community College, along with Save The Kids and other organizations, took part in the first annual International Lowrider Studies Conference.
Organized by lowrider clubs and community members, the conference focused on storytelling and experiences to help attendees learn about the history, culture, politics, justice, style, geography, art, music, fashion and other topics relating to the lowrider community.
Behind much of this is SLCC professor Dr. Anthony J. Nocella II, who finds motivation for what he does from where he grew up.
“In Philadelphia, you see a lot of incarceration, racism and poverty … if we want to work towards fixing racial injustices, we have to address the criminal justice system,” Nocella said. “I’m at SLCC because I like that we focus on equity, inclusion and justice. These principles really resonate with me.”
At SLCC, Nocella wanted to start making a change, and organizing events became one of the best ways to accomplish his goals. Nocella believes that these events go hand and hand with his teaching.
“It’s the idea of making sure you’re engaging in your teaching, and that social change is education and education is social change. You can’t be detached,” Nocella said.
Nocella hopes to see change and awareness from events like the lowrider conference.
“I want to see positive change, community engagement, and students learning how to make a flyer and organize events. So, when students do get frustrated, they know how to promote events, speak in front of people and put a conference together,” Nocella said.
One of the biggest changes Nocella wants to see is changing the perceptions of community colleges.
“I want to challenge the notion that community colleges are not as good as universities, as colleges: The first is they don’t provide resources, the second is they don’t have as good of professors, and third, the students are not as intellectual. These are three false narratives that society perpetuates,” Nocella explained.
“First, we have a tremendous number of resources compared to other institutions. I think that is proven in our free student public transportation: we have multiple gyms, childcare, and several advisors.
“Second, we have many students at the University of Utah, UVU, UCLA, Stanford, and Harvard come from community colleges. I think the smartest students are the ones who go to a community college, save money, and then transfer to a four-year school.
“And finally, the professors here are amazing, they come from all over the world. I work with Nancy [Barrickman] in biology; she has a PhD from Duke University. I have a PhD from Syracuse University and have published 57 books, and a number of them have been translated in 12 different languages. I’ve published more than most professors in higher ed,” Nocella said.
Nocella made it clear that he does want to boast about himself, but he wants his students to know that they are at a school with excellent professors.
“I want my students to be proud of who they’re taught by. And I tell them all these different things, not to brag, but so that they’ll know who they’re being taught by,” Nocella said.
Nocella believes that every professor needs to brag more, and anyone who is trying to start a project needs to be more vocal.
“At Salt Lake Community College, we need to promote ourselves like hip-hop does. You have got to talk about your campaign and who you really are,” Nocella said. “Being humble in your life and about you is one thing, but being [quiet] about the community and the work that we are doing together is a different thing. In that case, it’s not about you, it’s about us.”
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story misidentified the year in which the photos were taken. Also, Nocella used the word “incarceration” — not “incarnation” — when describing the situation in Philadelphia.