Sam Klein/Sagamore staff

Speakers listen to a speech at the B-block “Tell Your Story” assembly.

B-block – Auditorium: Tell Your Story

March 17, 2016

The “Tell Your Story” blocks are presented as an opportunity for students, mainly students of color, to share their stories in individual speeches delivered to the audience. The speakers during this block were senior Johanna Kepler, sophomore Talia Vos, senior Michée Mande, senior Zaria Karakashian-Jones, senior Lea Churchill and junior Nadjae Edmondson.

Headmaster Deborah Holman began the assembly with a speech thanking the organizers of the day and describing the urgency of the discussions given recent racial issues and events in the school and nation. She encouraged the attendants to open their minds to new voices and views throughout the day.

Moderators seniors Shams Mohajerani and Radha Patel first introduced Kepler. She spoke about her experience growing up with two mothers as a child adopted from Guatemala. She also said that others, throughout her childhood, made her feel like an outsider. She talked about the misconception that outsiders were a bad thing and should be excluded. Ultimately, she said, forcing people to minimize their differences and conform to certain standards is a dangerous precedent to set.

A transcript of Kepler’s speech can be read here.

Next, Vos, who said she has blood from all around the world, spoke about being tired of having to “pick a side” and being told that she “isn’t enough” of one race or another. Ultimately, she also said that she dislikes the negative emphasis placed on these differences.

The next speaker, Mande, shared his story of coming to the United States from the Democratic Republic of Congo when he was five years old. He talked about the inaccurate perceptions people had of his origins and said that he originally had made assumptions about White people when first arriving here.

A transcript of Mande’s speech can be read here.

“To me, to be White meant that you could be one of two things: the savior or the destroyer,” he said. “It took the influences of wonderful people in my life to convince me that all people can do harm to others… These people also told me love and compassion can come out of anyone and for any reason.”

Karakashian-Jones spoke next, imploring people to build bridges, not walls. She reminded attendees that pretending race doesn’t exist isn’t the solution to racial issues and that White people don’t have to have ancestors who owned slaves to benefit from the system of privilege and oppression.

Next Churchill, who identifies as mixed-race, spoke about her family history and her experience growing up in France, describing the mixed-race experience as “walking a tightrope.” She said that she has been called “exotic” countless times, but finds it insulting, as it’s a term that should be used for plants, food and animals, not when people can’t determine her race.

A transcript of Churchill’s speech can be read here.

Finally, Edmondson spoke about colorism and the many microaggressions and obstacles she has faced as a woman of color with dark skin. Among these, she described not being able to find makeup or makeup artists who would work with her skin color, and countless incidents of name calling and rude comments directed at her when she becomes loud, passionate or excited about something.

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