Intersession day webinar seeks to inspire community



A “Call to Action”-themed Intersession Day began with a webinar featuring an array of panelists.

Following midyear exams, the high school gathered on Jan. 26, 2022 for an Intersession Day with the theme of “A Call to Action” for students and staff. The day began with a webinar featuring a panel of local activist leaders who discussed what it means to them to take on a role where they can make change.

William Dickerson, a community organizer from Second Chance Justice, and Imari Paris Jeffries, the Executive Director of King Boston, started the discussion by expressing their commitment to community-oriented social justice work and empowering members of our community to speak out against racism in our culture.

Paris Jeffries said the cultural symbols in our city and within our communities have more of an impact on our mindset than we expect them to have.

“When we think about cultural representation, we think about other ways in which these cultural representations like monuments, street names and school buildings reify white supremacy,” Jeffries said.

Jeneé Osterheldt, a Boston Globe columnist and the creator of “A Beautiful Resistance”—a Boston Globe column dedicated to representing Black stories and reclaiming the truth of Black communities—also said our culture is defined by the background of our day-to-day lives.

“Culture shapes consciousness and sometimes it’s those things we see in the background that we don’t know are affecting our collective thought,” Osterheldt said.

She said through her writing in “A Beautiful Resistance” she is able to “lift the veil” off of these topics that stay hidden in the background and ask people to face them—especially considering, as Osterheldt acknowledged, that the majority of the Boston Globe readership is white.

Osterheldt said the topics she writes or talks about aren’t necessarily made to make people feel good—they are made to be honest.

“I don’t seek to give space to oppressors, I don’t seek to make people feel comfortable and prop them up, I seek to tell the truth and the truth is not always nice,” Osterheldt said. “It’s not always something that’s going to be fair.”

Anna Lin, a junior and the founder and president of Language Virtual, emphasized the importance of community service work as a stepping stone to larger societal change. Language Virtual is a student-run nonprofit organization whose mission is to teach English—free of cost—to students around the world.

Lin shared her mother’s story as a Korean immigrant who had a hard time making friends in school because she couldn’t speak fluent English. Lin said an organization like Language Virtual could have changed her mother’s experience.

“Imagine if her experience could have been different. Imagine if she had had someone to teach her the language and by doing that made her feel welcome in her community,” Lin said. “That’s what Language Virtual tries to do for our students who come from overseas into communities in America.”

Elijah Evans, Executive Director of Bikes Not Bombs—a nonprofit organization that uses recycled bicycles as a vessel for social and economic change around the world—discussed how small changes can lead to large transformations.

Evans said the small changes Bikes Not Bombs makes in individual people’s lives evolves into a larger and lasting impact.

“We use [the bikes] to empower and transform individual lives and their futures, but we don’t just stop there,” Evans said. “We have an impact on communities and the climate, and it’s a ripple effect. As the Robert Kennedy quote goes, the tiniest ‘ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression.’”

Dickerson said enabling people to be their full selves can expand what change is possible down the line.

“First and foremost, I believe that humans, when they have access to the things that they need to become their most bold, most powerful, most beautiful selves, will change the world.” Dickerson said. “I think we have thousands of people in our world and in our history that proves that that is the truth.”

The panelists reflected on the present moment in Boston and across the country. Paris Jeffries shared his excitement around new politicians, social advocates and journalists of color who are well positioned to make powerful change.

Osterheldt said she is also inspired by the current possibility of change, but aware of the pushback that comes with progress on social justice. Alongside larger challenges with pushback on voting rights, critical race theory, and xenophobic protests at the mayors house, Osterheldt said challenges occur at the personal level for advocates.

“It means to have your life threatened, and I’ve had my life threatened,” Osterheldt said. “There’s always going to be people who choose to see you as angry, or as a troublemaker. And most of the time I wear those badges with a smile, because I have a right to be mad and I like to make good trouble the way that John Lewis taught us, but there are hard days, and I do struggle.”

Nonetheless, Osterheldt said she sees Boston as a true reflection of the country’s potential to grow and transform at the hands of those who aspire to bring positive change—such as the people represented on the panel.

“We are in a fantastic and fragile time in the city of Boston, and one of the things I love about Boston, Cambridge and New England is that we are a reflection of our country,” Osterheldt said. “For better and for worse, the good and the bad, so our fragile and fantastic time is also a fragile and fantastic time in the whole country.”