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Diversity Conference encourages student voices, exploration of cultures

6th+grade+students+reflect+on+the+day+by+writing+in+journals+and+discussing+takeaways.+According+to+6th+grade+dean+Ms.+Burns%2C+this+activity+was+done+to+increase+empathy%2C+inclusivity+and+understanding+within+the+grade.
6th grade students reflect on the day by writing in journals and discussing takeaways. According to 6th grade dean Ms. Burns, this activity was done to increase empathy, inclusivity and understanding within the grade.

6th grade students reflect on the day by writing in journals and discussing takeaways. According to 6th grade dean Ms. Burns, this activity was done to increase empathy, inclusivity and understanding within the grade.

6th grade students reflect on the day by writing in journals and discussing takeaways. According to 6th grade dean Ms. Burns, this activity was done to increase empathy, inclusivity and understanding within the grade.

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“You seem too white-washed. Are you really Latina?”

“I wish I were black because it would be so much easier to get into college.”

“If you’re Mexican, how are you so bad at Spanish?”

These are a few of the microaggressions that students and faculty have overheard at Archer in recent months, according to a video produced by senior Anika Bhavnani, head of the Diversity Committee.

On Tuesday, Jan. 24, The Archer Community gathered for the annual Diversity Conference, this year officially titled “Archer Forward: Embrace Diversity, Foster Justice.”

The purpose of the day has always been to encourage diverse voices and dialogue, but 2017 is the first year that the seminars have been entirely student and faculty-run. In the past, many were led by outside speakers and presenters.

Click on the audio clip to the right to hear Beth Gold’s goals for the day. Gold is the Diversity Coordinator and helped to organize the conference.

“It’s interesting that we didn’t bring in outside perspectives [this year],” April Tate ’17, an executive board member of the Black Student Union, said. “At first, I was kind of surprised, but after working together with the other diversity club leaders to make sure that the seminars weren’t all the same, I think it was great.”

Morning Discussions

For the upper schoolers, morning events included an assembly, a screening of “Long Way from Home,” directed by Kavery Kaul, followed by student panel discussions.

The documentary follows three freshman girls entering high schools in Manhattan, NY. The girls, each from a very different background, struggle to fit in and feel isolated in their new environments. Over the course of the film, they learn to find a sense of belonging while staying true to themselves.

“[The film] was impactful because the things that the girls were going through are still very relevant in 2017,” Josie Garcia-Euyoque ’18, leader of Hermanas Unidas, said.

The panels focused on microaggressions and students’ experiences with hurtful comments.

“The panels were a highlight [for me],” Gold said. “[I enjoyed] seeing the students being so brave and willing to share, and educating the community in a thoughtful respectful way about sensitivities they had.”

Photo by Cat Oriel
Black Student Union Board Member Sarah Walston ’17 speaks during the Diversity Day Panel about micro-aggressions, while Asian Club Leader Cybele Zhang ’18 listens. Walston discussed the importance of white allyship.

The panel stressed the importance of asking questions in order to learn more about diverse cultures, while still being considerate of others’ beliefs.

“I think a lot of the time, there is not a malicious intent behind [a comment], but the impact is huge,” Chloe Hoberman ’17, a panelist, said.

The question arose as to how better incorporate diversity into life at Archer. As noted by several of the panelists, Archer often integrates gender into the curriculum, but classes less frequently discuss issues of socioeconomic status, race and religion.

“We need to talk about our differences rather than grasping onto what makes us similar,” panelist Dani Beauregard ’18 said during the presentation.

Meanwhile, middle schoolers attended a keynote by Archer parent Tiffany Smith-Anoa’i, Executive Vice President of Diversity and Communications at CBS Entertainment, and participated in grade-level activities.

“[Smith-Anoa’i] puts diversity in front and behind the camera with writers, programs and everything else,” daughter Vaughan Anoa’i ’22 said. “She always says, ‘Make sure that a yes to someone else isn’t a no to yourself,’ and to ‘always use your voice.'”

Afternoon Workshops

In the afternoon, all students attended a guest artist talk and workshops.

During the artist talk, presenter Alexandra Grant introduced “Antigone is you is me,” a collaboration between Grant, the Eastern Star Gallery and the Archer community.

Students then attended two, hour-long seminars, which they signed up for in advance. Most attended one thematic seminar and one art session.

Many of the 19 thematic workshops were led by diversity clubs such as Girls Educating Girls and Gay-Straight Alliance, while the nine artistic sessions were led by on-campus groups such as the Drama Queens and song writing class.

This year also marks the first time that arts seminars were incorporated into the Diversity Conference.

“Different varieties of art can exemplify diversity and create a safe space to facilitate a conversation,” Isabella Simanowitz ’18, who led the seminar “Are you a Barbie Girl in a Barbie World?” said.

Continuing the Conversation

Although the Diversity Conference is a one-day event, many community members intend to continue an honest, open dialogue into the future.

Infographic by Cybele Zhang ’18.

“People want to continue conversations,” Gold said. “Some ideas for doing that are clubs cross-pollinating and using community connections as a forum for dialogue.”

Immediately following the Diversity Conference, the community continued celebrating different cultures, with Heritage Week.

“Having Heritage Week keeps everyone discussing what we learned during Diversity Day,” Dominque White ’18 said. “I thought it was a great way to get people to participate and bring all the grades together.”

Each of the following three days included lunchtime activities to further promote the inclusion of diverse cultures — specifically through dance, music and food.

“I really hope people are interested in making Archer more inclusive,” Gold said. “I hope people will be up-standers, not bystanders, so when they hear offensive language they will use their voice to benefit the whole community.”

Click on the photo gallery below to see more events from the Diversity Conference.

 

Photo by Cat Oriel

During a morning upper school assembly, Audrey Koh '17 and Sammy Raucher '19 (from left to right) perform Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor, while Kate Burns plays piano. The goal of the meeting was to celebrate community talents.

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1 Comment

One Response to “Diversity Conference encourages student voices, exploration of cultures”

  1. Isabella simanowitz on January 31st, 2017 11:28 pm

    Such a great article! Thank you to everyone who participated in Diversity Day; I was so inspired by the variety of seminars and the people who spoke on the panel. Can’t wait for next year!

    [Reply]

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