Presenting at the CCPH 2008 conference was a wonderful experience. When Professor Alicia Rodriquez asked me if I was interested in serving on a conference panel on Central Valley history, I jumped at the opportunity. The paper I presented was based on a research seminar essay I had written in 2007 at UCSB—where I am currently finishing my dissertation project in the history department. My paper dealt specifically with law enforcement reform and the origins of race relations training after World War II in the United States, but particularly here on the west coast. In the course of my research, and to my great surprise, I found that Bakersfield’s former chief of police, Robert Powers, was an integral figure in the history of racial liberalism and law enforcement.
Presenting a paper is always a little nerve racking. I hadn’t presented at a professional conference since 2005, when I was in the Master’s program at CSUB, so I was nervous, but also anxious to share the story of one of Bakersfield most progressive racial liberals. I was also thrilled to sit on a panel with two wonderful colleagues, Alicia Rivera and Elise Palos. Presenting with other young scholars who work on the history of California’s central valley was intellectually gratifying beyond measure. As a doctoral candidate, I seldom get the opportunity to interact with specialists in my field, so the panel was that much more professionally rewarding. I am very appreciative of Alicia Rodriquez for having the foresight in putting together a panel of this kind in the first place, one that privileges the history of this understudied region we call home.
After presenting my paper, I had the honor of receiving a conference grant award, along with my colleague Elise Palos, which helped cover the expense of traveling to San Luis Obispo where the conference was held. The awards banquet brought together dozens of both academic and public historians throughout the state, whose work continues to push the boundaries of both California history and the American Southwest. Among my personal highlights was mingling at length with Alice C. Royal, a descendant of Colonel Allen Allensworth and author of Allensworth, The Freedom Colony: A California African American Township (Heyday Books, 2008). I also had the opportunity to chat with Royal’s co-author and photographer, Scott Braley, whose work as a public historian includes a recent photographic essay re-counting the journey of Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza for News From Native America magazine.
Participating in the CCPH conference was fun, rewarding, engaging, and has helped contribute to my sense of what it means to be a professional historian. I look forward to involving myself with the CCPH in the future.