“Doing what’s right takes courage and a lot of practice,” proclaimed Silvia Salazar, a diversity coordinator and Spanish teacher at Crossroads, in her introduction to yesterday’s Upper School assembly honoring Martin Luther King Jr. Day. “Let’s not give up the dream of helping create an environment and systems that are just for everyone.”
Among the many courageous students helping to achieve this dream at Crossroads are the six who attended the National Association of Independent Schools’ Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) last December: 12th graders Victor Aguilar and Kaia Chau; 11th graders Wendy Cortez and Sekai Beard; and 10th graders Jenna Adiele and Jordan Gunn. SDLC is held in conjunction with the People of Color Conference
, where several Crossroads faculty and staff also presented and participated this year.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day offered a timely occasion to build upon the students’ work at SDLC. In anticipation of the assembly, the six students organized an activity for their peers to explore “core cultural identifiers”—race and ethnicity, ability, age, gender, sexual orientation, family structure, socioeconomic status and religion—shedding light on the various advantages and disadvantages students experience.
“As students who went to SDLC, we feel a responsibility to help educate and spread awareness about what we learned from our experience,” the group explained in a message to the faculty.
After Silvia’s introduction, the student-facilitators asked their classmates to respond to a series of prompts about the identifiers listed above. They inquired, for example, if the students knew someone who identifies as gender fluid; if they have ever been told they are too young or too old to do something; and if they owned their own car. In response, the student assembly either raised or lowered their hands and silently reflected on how they and their peers identified.
“There were times when I was uncomfortable, and there were times when I was inspired,” commented one student who attended the smaller group feedback session later in the day.
Another student added, “I thought it was a good activity for the entire community to become aware of what is actually going on in the community.”
The Elementary and Middle Schools also held special tributes to Martin Luther King Jr. At the Friday Gathering last week, the Elementary School joined the seventh-grade choir in singing songs—including “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and “We Shall Overcome”—that inspired activists during the civil rights movement. Middle Schoolers participated in an interactive assembly of their own, led by Middle School Diversity Coordinator Menelik Tafari and 12th grader Kai McAliley. Using “fast fact” cards created by eighth-grade core students, the Middle Schoolers learned about racial injustice around the world. Then faculty and students discussed what inspired King to take action and what inspires us today.
On Saturday, Jan. 25, the Upper School students who attended SDLC will lead another activity exploring core cultural identifiers at the Student Stay Woke conference organized by SoCal People of Color in Independent Schools at Westside Neighborhood School.