On Campus

US stops, drops, and talks identity

The Upper School (US) took a break from academic classes on January 23 to host its third annual Community Day, which received largely positive feedback compared to previous years.

The day consisted of mostly student-run workshops and aimed to emphasize diversity and activism within the school, Community Day Core Group (CDCG) member Elijah Davis ’18 said. This year, the day began with advisory, where students picked up their schedules before proceeding to an assembly launched by US Director Geoff Theobald and Director of Multicultural Services Lewis Bryant. Math Teacher Meena Kaur, English Teacher Ariel Duddy, Science Teacher Jake Nagy, and History Department Head Gustavo Carrera also gave short speeches about different aspects of their identity.

“The dream of today,” Mr. Theobald said during his speech, “is to spend time with each other in a different way.”

Mr. Nagy said that his experience as a self-described straight, white male who has always felt safe, comfortable, wanted, and respected doesn’t grant him the liberty to be content with the state of the community when others are being made to feel inferior or excluded because of their race or sexual orientation.

“Today, I ask everyone to join me in rejecting such ignorant and unproductive behavior,” he said. “No one should feel comfortable or empowered in the community until everyone does.”

The assembly concluded with remarks from eight of the CDCG members who organized the day.

Prior to Community Day, the CDCG group—Elijah, Armando Hazaveh, Rabia Kassim, Alia Rizvi, Athena Chu (all ’18), Laila Shadid, Ashley Sharma, Avik Sarkar, and Rebecca Mironko (all ’19)—met weekly with Mr. Theobald and Mr. Bryant to manage the event’s logistics, create workshops, and organize the schedule.

In a change from last year’s assortment of activities, the CDCG decided to format this year’s Community Day with two one-and-a-half-hour-long workshops, the first aimed at “identity” and the second at “action.”

The morning workshop offered students an opportunity to spend time with others who shared an aspect of their identity and to discuss the roles and challenges they faced as members of that specific community, Elijah said.

The afternoon workshop, following an hour-long break for lunch, was meant to expand upon morning discussions and educate students about resources and ways to connect with the greater community, he added.

In advisory a few weeks before Community Day, students chose their top three workshops from a list of 26 identity categories—including some on race, religion, sexual orientation, and even twinship—and 15 action categories, with themes ranging from the Black Lives Matter movement to sexual harassment to mental health and suicide prevention. The CDCG then placed students into their workshops accordingly.

Lucy Goldfarb ’18, who attended the Judaism identity workshop, said the group talked about everything from favorite Jewish foods, like kugel, latkes, and matzah ball soup, to more serious issues like anti-Semitism and the current state of Israel.

“I know there was a lot of controversy about having groups of people who share the same ideas be together, but I found it really nice to be around people who have similar experiences,” she said. “I think that overall, it’s helpful to unite everyone in such a way because focusing on and discussing in depth our respective identities is what helps keep our community strong.”

Laila and Sam Moskow ’19 facilitated the loss identity group—open to anyone whose close family member has died—and said their discussion, although initially slow, ended up being really productive.

“I was really nervous at first because loss isn’t widely discussed at BB&N, so I wasn’t sure how people would react and how comfortable they would be sharing their own experiences,” Laila said. “But a few minutes in, we started sharing stories, and by the end, people were opening up a lot.”

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