Letter to Future Race & Oral History Students

Letter to Future Race & Oral History Students

Dear future student,

First of all, congratulations for choosing to be part of this class! As someone who took this class two years in a row, I have grown very fond of it. Personally, I was drawn to the class for the opportunity to learn how to conduct oral histories through a critical historical/ethnic studies lens. While the class has many parts and is actually a lot of work, it is rewarding in many aspects.

As a UCSD student, it is easy to get sucked into the bubble that is the UCSD campus. This course offers a unique opportunity for students to see more of San Diego, meet people who live and have grown up here, and learn about the communities of color that are constantly erased, policed, and mis/under-represented.

The process of conducting oral history is a tricky one for me. While I love meeting people and listening to their stories, I have trouble reconciling this with the need to document and institutionalize their stories. When I interview someone and they trust me with this part of their life story, how do I know that their story will be used in a positive and respectable way? As I’ve gone through the class (twice), however, I realize that I should focus less on the interview itself and more on the relationships that I’ve cultivated with my professor, my group mates, and the community partner.

I’m glad that you are continuing this legacy of documenting oral histories in San Diego. If we don’t put in the work, then who will? You and every person that is a part of this project carries unique perspectives and life experiences, and by valuing the stories that you share with one another, I have hope that something great will come out of it all.

Good luck, have fun, and best wishes,

Ryan Okazaki

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