Yogis gathered on Feb. 16 in the LUAG Main Gallery inside Zoellner Arts Center for a yoga practice. The session was hosted as a part of the Radical Love Conference Yoga For Every BODY event. (Maeve Kelly/ B&W Staff)

Radical Love Conference: Reintroducing what love really means


During a week full of valentines and romantic celebrations, the Marcon Institute hosted the Radical Love Conference to explore a different approach to what love looks like.

The conference took place from Feb. 14 to 17 and featured speakers from different schools and professions. The events created by fellows at the Marcon Institute included a Therapy Dog Cafe and Burst of Light Celestial Meditation, which was created by Marcon fellow Amber Brose and is focused on healing racial trauma.

Shley Nathan ’26, Marcon Fellow, participating in a Radical Love Conference workshop in LUAG Feb. 14, 2024. The workshop, paired with a reception at Lehigh University Art Galleries, gave students the opportunity to create affirmation dolls made from felt, magazine cut-outs and more. (Nahjiah Miller/ B&W Staff)

The events took place all over campus, from the Lehigh University Art Gallery to the STEPS lawn. 

Attendees ranged from first-years to seniors, with many Marcon Fellows in attendance to see their work displayed for the Lehigh community to experience. 

The conference was centered on the idea of Embodied Love  and explored what love means and how it presents itself. To focus on this theme, the conference allowed for open discussions and community building, with a special emphasis on giving every attendee a sense of belonging. 

This was the second annual Radical Love Conference at Lehigh. The conference was created soon after Holona Ochs, a political science professor, became the Marcon Institute’s director. The conference is designed to be an open forum and is based on the ideas of activist, poet and scholar Gloria Jean Watkins, known by her pen name, bell hooks. 

“The Radical Love Conference is based on an idea by bell hooks, to bring the community together to talk about how we understand love,” Ochs said. “The conference is an opportunity to talk as a community to make love less of a romantic ideal and a way to make a stronger community.” 

The conference took several months to organize, as the planning committee wanted to ensure they were enhancing inclusivity by creating the right events and inviting the most knowledgeable and talented guest speakers and presenters. 

One of the key presenters at the conference was Cheyenne Davis, an educator, storyteller and media professional. Davis focuses on amplifying BIPOC stories and presenting minorities as four-dimensional main characters in their screenplays. 

The talk given by Davis focused on the importance of creating screenplays and digital content that highlight diverse characters, as well as their perspectives and experiences. They also discussed the importance of media in creating an open space and cultivating community. 

“The goal is not to change minds,” Davis said. “The main goal is to represent a person I did not have in an academic setting.”

The conference was open not only to students, but also the local community. Through this openness, the conference aimed to foster love within the Bethlehem community by creating space for minorities who have been cast aside from institutions.

“The conference was very specially centered around healing racial trauma and equity surrounding those who have faced most oppression,” Ochs said. 

An attendee of the conference, Alina Barreto, ‘27, said she went into Radical Love not knowing what to expect. 

“I had no idea what this conference was going to be about,” Barreto said, “But after attending, it has really changed my perspective on love and community.”

The conference’s Cat Cafe and Art in My Heart: Artist’s Workshop were postponed due to winter weather. The Cat Cafe will now take place in STEPS 102 on Friday, May 3, and the new date of the Artist’s Workshop is to be determined. 

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