“His hellos are in another language,” senior Diego Echeverria de Cordova recited. “Illegal!” the crowd roared back.
A group of students gave an immersive presentation about illegal immigration on Tuesday, Dec. 11 during C-block. Senior Isabella Moros managed the assembly and transitioned through the powerpoint as accompanying students sat on stage reading quotes from politicians and Latino immigrants aloud, adding to their emotional weight.
Through their presentation, the students challenged myths and fears about immigration, explored themes such as belonging to a homeland, emphasized the benefits of immigration and also delved into historical background and current day issues.
The assembly opened with a powerful poem that emphasized haughty judgements people make about Latino immigrants. Members of the presentation sat in the audience, representing a judgemental crowd, and shouted out “illegal” and “legal” after each description Cordova shouted.
The students followed this moving poem with a “stand up if…” activity that showed how America is a country composed of immigrants.
Moros then catapulted into the first chapter of their powerpoint presentation titled “The Invasion,” and then delved into the second chapter, which addressed the irrational fear that immigrants are stealing jobs. They presented compelling data that showed how immigrants are actually invaluable to the economy.
Afterwards, Moros transitioned to their third chapter titled “Dreamers or Delinquents?” that explored the misconception that all Latino immigrants are “rapists and criminals.”
They showed an eye-opening video on the racy and wildly inaccurate depiction of Latinos in media. Students then refuted these misconceptions with data showing that undocumented immigrants commit less crime than native-born citizens.
Next, they introduced a powerful quote from nurse Monica Vazquez, who was inspired to work hard by her parents.
“For everyone who says I’m a rapist, murderer, criminal- you won’t know my story, but I’ll be at your bedside taking care of you at your worst moment, and I think you’ll be glad I’m still here,” Vazquez said.
Moros then transitioned to their final chapter, “Perpetual Foreigner,” which responded to claims that Latino immigrants will never be able to assimilate. It also explored the history of the United States, and how California, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico were annexed from Mexico, effectively making many Mexicans foreigners in their own land.
“We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us,” Moros said.
The most moving moment of the assembly was when Moros showed snippets of a documentary on children separation at the border. A distraught and heartbroken young girl recounted her story while staring sadly into camera, and the audience struggled to hold back tears as they listened to an audio clip of a sobbing girl begging to call her aunt.
Multi-Racial Affinity Club (MAC)
A C-block presentation and gallery walk about multiracial students and families at the high school and in the media was held in the MLK room.
Hosted by Spanish teacher Astrid Allen, Dean of Student Support Systems Brian Poon, freshman Nathan Harris and sophomores Lexi Danesco and Aysia Wilson, the Multiracial presentation began with a gallery walk around the MLK room. The room had exhibits such as an array of photos of the high school’s multiracial families and community and multiracial people in part of literature, sports, music, film and television.
In addition to visual exhibits, there were also interactive stations set up around the room. These posed questions such as “What race do you identify as?” and “How do you think multiracial people are portrayed in media?” In the back corner of the room, students hosting the presentation explained how being multiracial has affected their lives.
After the hosting teachers called the room to order, a series of videos were shown featuring multiracial students at the high school and television interviews with celebrities sharing their experience being multiracial.
“We started this club a couple years ago because during Asking for Courage and just in life, we’ve always felt like ‘Huh, what box do we check? Who are we? What do we identify as?’” Allen said.
After the videos, the hosts spoke to the audience about the benefits to the multiracial experience.
“Being multiracial, I can see a lot more mirrors because I can have two perspectives,” Harris said. “For me, I can see my white half on my mom’s side and my Black half on my dad’s side.”
The hosts also spoke about how being multiracial impacts their interactions with other people.
“It’s impacted my life because I feel like I don’t look like a certain race,” Danesco said. “I feel like I look like both or not either of them, so constantly I’m asked ‘what am I?’ and that just impacts me because I have to go through it probably every day.”
For students interested in the Multiracial Affinity Community, the club meets every other X-block and every other Monday after school in room 231.
Beauty Standards- Women of Color
“Pretty enough for a dark girl” is what many girls have had to settle for. The “Beauty Standards for Women of Color” discussion addressed this problem.
Junior Ifeamaka Richardson opened the conversation, posing a question to the audience, which led the rest of the videos and discussions.
“It’s hard for women of color to feel pretty. It’s hard for women, in general, to feel pretty. Where do our concepts of beauty even come from?” Richardson said.
Her speech was followed by an Anderson Cooper video discussing the “doll study.” In this video, 4 and 5-year-old children, followed by 9 and 10-year-old children, looked at pictures of dolls with different skin tones and pointed out which ones were “good,” “bad,” “dumb,” “mean,” and more. Following the video was a discussion on race and why girls of color were generally associated with negative stereotypes, while white girls were generally associated with positive stereotypes.
Seniors Rana Shahbazi and Callie Rabinovitz led the next conversation, where students and teachers wrote down a time when they felt “ugly.” Rabinovitz began the discussion with her own experience.
“When I was younger people would tell me ‘you can’t be Jewish because you’re a chink,’” Rabinovitz said.
The final video was the Buzzfeed video “What Dark-Skinned People Won’t Tell You,” discussing the stereotypes and beauty standards for people of color. The video discussed both external and internalized racism.
Dean Summer Williams left the audience with a question that wrapped up the conversation.
“What can you do in your spaces after you leave the high school?” Williams said.
Students Against Institutional Racism (SAIR)
During C-block there were many different events, but the most up-close and personal one was the presentation, “People Hate Change”, which was led by members of SAIR (Students Against Institutional Racism).
The 12 students and one faculty adviser, social studies teacher Oye Carr, filled the hour with background on the club’s history, what they’ve accomplished so far, how they got there and what their goals for the future are. They then transitioned into a privilege walk, followed by small-group discussions.
According to seniors Vishni Samaraweera and Ben Haber, who co-founded the club two years ago, they started the club because they wanted a student-led group that focused on institutional racism issues in our schools and would work to effect change. Their overall goal is for all the systems and policies within the high school to be equitable for all.
The two main projects that the group described were their curriculum work and a program called Bridge to SAIR.
SAIR members found that the middle school US history curriculum in Brookline left many perspectives out. They found a need to diversify the curriculum, so, according to the presentation, they created their own curriculum that covers more subjects and is more diverse.
According to Samaraweera, the process was long and hard, but eventually, their hard work paid off.
“Not only did our curriculum get implemented, but the entire 8th grade US history curriculum has now been recentered to be around human rights, so we made a big change,” Samaraweera said.
Seniors IK Agba, Samantha Song and Richard Desir spoke about Bridge to SAIR, the program that they, along with Samaraweera, founded. Bridge to SAIR gives middle schoolers the chance to experience the same open environment and platform that the high school members of SAIR do when talking about injustices and ways to fix those problems.
“We all came from predominantly white middle schools, and we felt that our teachers didn’t teach us that we had the power to make change in our communities,” Agba said. “We want to really implant that thought that the kids have the power to make change before they come to the high school.”
According to Desir and Song, the process of starting this middle school-centered program was long and difficult and involved many meetings, especially in regards to funding. It is currently only implemented at Pierce Elementary School, but their goal is to have it in all eight elementary schools.
After the introduction to the program, all audience members stood up and took to the floor of the Schluntz Gymnasium to participate in a privilege walk, an activity in which Haber read statements aloud in regards to identity, and those to whom the statement applied would either step forward or backward.
Some examples from the walk were, “If you do not have financial worries, take one step forward;” “If English was your first language, take one step forward;” “If at least one of your parents has a college degree, step forward” and “If you feel unsafe walking alone at night in your neighborhood, take one step back.” Most of the statements revolved around education, race, gender and religion.
After the walk, students were reunited with the classes and teachers they came with and had discussions about the privilege walk. The discussions were led by SAIR members.
After these stimulating discussions, the whole audience reconvened for closing remarks in which the club recapitulated their goals and mission.