Speakers inspire audience at the Annual Renegade Talks


Melissa Puryear

Joe Saldivar, Bakersfield College biology professor, presents “Smooth Endoplasmic Reticulum: A Fork in the Academic Road.”

Melissa Puryear, Managing Editor

Bakersfield College presented its annual Renegade Talks on April 10 in the Simonsen Performing Arts Center Indoor Theatre. The Renegade Talks series is similar to the TEDx Talks platform, where speakers share an idea for about ten minutes.

Todd Coston, Director of Information Technology at Bakersfield College and part of the team that makes up the Renegade Talks, said that he, Andrea Thorson, Dean of Instruction at BC, and Helen Acosta,Communication Department Chair, organized this year’s Renegade Talks. The Renegade Talks team selects speakers from auditions, then coaches them throughout the fall and spring. They encourage a well-rounded line-up of speakers that include College faculty, staff and students with ideas that would inspire those who attend.

Daniel Mechem, a military veteran and BC student was the first to present his topic, “The Burden of Freedom,” a topic about the “importance of well-informed opinions and well-researched arguments.”

With so much information that is accessible online, he said, “In order for us to maintain our freedom, we have to continually educate ourselves on it.”

Teena Bensusen, a Communication major at BC, presented her topic, “Manner’s and Today’s Society,” where she explored modern-day rudeness and becoming more considerate.

Chris Cruz-Boone, a Communication professor presented her topic “Rolling the Dice: Should I Play Board Games with my Husband or Should I Get a Divorce?” explores her own personal struggle with a hard choice. She had to make a choice between divorce or working on her marriage. She chose to save her marriage by playing board games and reconnecting with her husband.

Amber Smithson, a Community Liaison for Behavioral Healthcare Hospital and a current BC student, presented her speech Twelve Seconds, which talked about suicide prevention and recognizing its signs. Having faced the struggle of helping her own child who had tried to take their own life, Smithson shared both statistics and gave advice on how to pay attention to suicidal signs and behaviors.

Joe Saldivar, a BC Biology professor presented his talk on Biology Smooth Endoplasmic Reticulum: A Fork in the Academic Road. Saldivar drew a humorous parallel between the high school graduate who rushes off to a higher educational institution and finds himself binge drinking instead of applying himself to learning, and the smooth endoplasmic reticulum, which is located in the liver and allows you to handle only so much alcohol. He encouraged students who found themselves starting over, to apply themselves to their education, even if that education is starting over again at BC.

Melissa Puryear
Amber Smithson, BC Professor, whose own child attempted suicide, instructs audience members to stand or sit for a few moments to demonstrate how many people think or attempt suicide every 12 Seconds.

Julian James West, a BC academic advisor, spoke about the challenges black men face in Black Masculine Identity. His powerful closing speech, called for both personal responsibility and societal responsibility in advocating for black men. Historically black men have been marginalized and this has had a negative impact upon success for black men. West calls for the advocacy and value of black men, stating that when a black man gets an education, he has extended his life expectancy, living beyond the life expectancy men of other races. He calls for “dropping negative cultural stereotypes” and help them to “pick up the identity of a college student, which will allow them to pick up the identity of a college graduate. If we can send more black men to college, not only will we change their lives, not only will we change our community’s lives, but we can change the world.”

Christian Bravo, a Bakersfield College student who was a part of staff assistance team at the talk, said that the topics were “very broad and eye-opening, and that this kind of event is very good to come to because it doesn’t happen all that often.”

He said he enjoyed Daniel Mechem’s speech on The Burden of Freedom. This talk was relevant to him because he will be enlisting in the Marine Corp this year. He also commented on Smithson’s speech on thetopic of suicide. Bravo said that “signs of suicide are difficult to see.” “If someone was going through personal issues here at BC and they would always be cheery, you wouldn’t be able to tell.”

He said that people who are able to mask their emotions which make detection of their struggle harder. Embarrassment is one reason Bravo gives for the reason someone remains silent. Another reason he gives is that some people don’t know how to share what they are going through and sometimes, he said, “they just don’t want to.”

Suicidal thoughts he said, “could happen to anyone,” and for people who aren’t struggling, they could be surrounded by people who struggle and they wouldn’t know.

“It could be a friend or co-worker or family member. It can even be a significant other.”

He said that he would try to do the best he could to help anyone who was struggling with suicide.

Michael Sargeant who is from Bakersfield and attended the event to show support for his son-in- law Julian West. He said “I thought he [West] did a fabulous job, in fact I was very impressed with everyone up there and how timely the messages are.”

He said that he is going to start playing games with his wife after listening to Cruz-Boone’s talk. “We need to build more shelves to house them and I’m probably guilty of picking them up and not using them, so yeah, we’re going to try a little harder with that,” he said.

Sargeant also said that most families have issues they face and that these messages delivered at the Renegade Talks series are messages he wishes they could all hear. “More people in the community need to hear about it [the talks] and you will have to find a bigger hall.

He said, “For me, this restores my faith in all of us, that we can help each other.”

He looks forward to next spring’s Renegade Talk.