Crossroads News

Crossroads Students Inspired by African Activists

Rwandan genocide survivor, albino sisters share harrowing stories.
Social justice is woven into the Crossroads curriculum in each of the three School divisions, and students regularly delve into complex topics such as income inequality, racism and immigration as part of their academic experience.
The scope of those discussions was widened this month during presentations by African activists, who visited campus to share their personal accounts and answer questions from students.
“It definitely informs a more global perspective,” senior Olivia Henrikson says. “We talk a lot about social justice issues here, but mostly within our country. It really expands the depth of everything we’ve studied.”
Olivia joined scores of other Upper School students for a riveting session with Bibiana and Tindi Mashamba, teenage Tanzanian sisters who have albinism. Bibiana was viciously attacked by strangers who severed her right leg, an incident that she attributes to the myth in some African countries that people with albinism have magic powers.
“My happiness was replaced with fear—fear from people,” Bibiana says. “I thought all people were monsters. ... Every day in my country, I have fear of my fellow man. It’s very sad, but it’s reality.”
Thanks to help from the African Millennium Foundation and other supporters, the sisters now live in Los Angeles and are determined to raise awareness. They were introduced at Crossroads by seniors Samara Handelsman and Kennedy Daniel.
“We can be anything in this world if the killings and the discrimination and the hunts stop,” Tindi says. “I dream of a day where people with albinism in my country and across Africa will be free from fear, will be able to get the education they so deserve, will be known as people like everybody else.”
The talk exemplified Crossroads’ continued focus on social justice. Earlier this year, students watched and discussed “They Call Us Monsters,” a documentary by alumnus Ben Lear '06 about the juvenile justice system. Another juvenile justice forum is planned for March 22.
“I had no idea that all of this was happening,” senior Lily Bronstein says of the attacks on African albinos. “It was really interesting and important to learn about it.”
Earlier in the morning, Middle School students learned about the Rwandan genocide during presentations by survivor Alphonsine Imaniraguha. She described the pain of losing family members, opened up about her journey to the U.S. and discussed her nonprofit organization, Rising Above the Storms.
“I didn’t forget what happened to me,” she says, “but I’m using it as a stepping stone in my life.”