Community In Action Week: The Impact of Representation and the Importance of Civil Discourse

Upper Schoolers recently completed Community in Action (CiA) Week, an initiative now in its fifth year that seeks to engage students in topics related to equity and inclusion. With this year’s theme in mind – Representation and Civil Discourse – leaders of student organizations, alliance groups, and Boards partnered with John Gomes, Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging, to create CiA programming relevant to their group’s purpose. Advisories then chose workshops to attend, hearing from peers about a plethora of topics and engaging in discussions about what was learned. 

“There’s nothing better than giving students ownership over meaningful programming and watching the amazing work they come up with,” says Gomes. “Community in Action allows our entire Upper School community to learn from students who are passionate and driven. Our most common complaint is that it is too hard to choose - many students wish they could attend every workshop!”

These were the CiA workshops the students curated and presented this year: 

Asian Student Alliance: “The Fetishization of Asian Women”
Participants considered how Asian women have been represented in the media, the ways in which this has led to a fetishization of Asian women, and the consequences that follow.
 
Black Student Union (session 1): “Digital Blackface”
Students discussed how African Americans are represented in the media and how social media, in particular, can blur the line between laughing with, and laughing at, a subject.
 
Center for the Advancement of Girls: “Roe v. Wade”
Workshop attendees learned about the legal arguments in the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court abortion rights case and compared them to positions that are being argued in cases associated with Roe v. Wade today.
 
COMPASS: “LGBTQ+ Jeopardy”
Students participated in a fun, trivia competition with current and historical facts and figures about LGBTQ+. 
 
Environmental Conservation Organization: “Sustainable Fashion”
The workshop brought light to the environmental effects of today’s ‘fast fashion’ markets. Students learned about eco-friendly fashion, and discussed the opportunities and challenges associated with sustainable fashion.
 
Hispanic Student Alliance: “The Evolution of Hispanic Representation in Film”
Participants analyzed the ways that Hispanic characters have been portrayed throughout film history. They also considered what roles have, and have not, been open to Hispanic actors.
 
Jewish Student Union: Anti-Semitism in the Media"
This workshop examined ways in which anti-Semitic stereotypes continue to show up in print, film, and social media and explained the history behind some of these stereotypes.
 
Middle Eastern Student Alliance: “How 9/11 Impacted People from the Middle East”
Students discussed the lasting impact that September 11, 2001 has had on people of the Middle East both here and abroad and the subsequent policies, fear, and hate that persist.
 
AIS Student Government: “Single-Sex Education”
AIS student government leaders presented research around single-sex schools and explored the merits and problems associated with these models. Leaders modeled ways students can approach an open question, gather facts, and form an opinion while listening to others and staying open to new evidence.  
 
Unity: “Affirmative Action”
Affirmative action is often misunderstood and overused. Student leaders guided a discussion about the history of affirmative action in the United States and explored some of the ways in which it is applied and ways in which the term can stoke fear and resentment. Unity is the overarching student group involved in CiA planning. 

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