Day of discussion about race and racism to be held Tuesday

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IMG_3945“Often in our classes we’re moving through curriculum, and when huge events happen in the United States and in the world that have to do with race and racism, sometimes we don’t actually stop and pause and discuss those events as much as we should,” history and Social Justice program teacher Kate Leslie said.

As a result, a group of faculty members and students led by Associate Dean Alexia Thomas has arranged a day of discussions on race to be held on Tuesday, March 2nd. The day is called “Asking for Courage” and is designed to spark conversations and bring some of the topics that have been neglected to the attention of the community.

“This day is meant to be a day when we stop to hear student’s stories at BHS,” Leslie said. “We stop and we talk about racial profiling, and we talk about race beyond the black and white. We talk about the Asian American experience. We talk about Latino students’ experiences here at BHS.”

The group has crafted a schedule that will cover topics ranging from white privilege to racial profiling.

A and C-block auditorium assemblies, led by history teacher Malcolm Cawthorne and Associate Dean Melanee Alexander, will consist of students telling their stories and sharing their experiences in regard to any aspect of race or racism.

“Really what we wanted to do was get kids from a lot of different perspectives and identities, so we looked for kids that don’t get thought of or recognized all the time,” Cawthorne said. “What are the voices that are not always heard, and we need to hear from?”

The G-block assembly, led by English teacher Jenee Ramos, will cover the issue of racial profiling, from the perspectives of both police officers and other members of the school community. The assembly during D-block, led by Leslie, will focus on the experiences of Asian-American students at the high school, and various students will be reading personal stories out loud. The E-block presentation, led by math teacher Kathy Hitchcock, will focus on white privilege and what it means to be a white ally.

In addition to the assemblies being held in the auditorium, the “Asking for Courage” Day will include showings of Race Reels movies in the Martin Luther King, Jr. room during G, D and E-blocks and voting workshops held in the Schluntz Gym at the same times.

The race reels showing in the MLK room will include two Ted Talks and a documentary filmed by a young METCO student from Weston High School. There will be bulletin boards set up in the atrium with probing questions and sticky notes for students to write down their responses to the films.

The day will also focus on voter registration. Steps to Success adviser Dan Arroyo and others have partnered with Legal Women’s Voters to set up voter registration booths in the Schluntz Gymnasium. Any student who is 18 or is close to turning 18 will be able to register to vote. Students who register will have the opportunity to vote on a ballot in May that will include the town’s budget override.

Ultimately, both Cawthorne and Leslie say that this day will not permanently solve any problems or end racial tension at the high school.

“It’s meant to spark more conversation, more discussion, and be a spark that may then light more students and faculty to do work around race and racismin their classrooms or in clubs after school,” Leslie said.

There is a large discrepancy surrounding how much students have been exposed to issues of race, Cawthorne said. He hopes to start bridging that divide.

“We want to provide something for every kid and really start to break down the barriers where all kids who come through this building work towards feeling comfortable talking about race,” Cawthorne said. “We know that’s now going to happen tomorrow. We want to help as many people as we can take that first step. I want someone’s antenna to go up, and I think that’s going to happen for a lot of people.”

Sasha Saias can be contacted at bhs.sagamore@gmail.com

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