This is how Mirman does ACTIVISM
In the culminating assembly of Black History Month, and Human Library Campaign's theme for February — ACTIVISM — students put their knowledge to work. Lower Schoolers showed off the activism signs that they've been working on this month, and explained a little about the causes that were important to them. Chief among these were gender equality, ending the wage gap, marriage equality, environmental justice, and more!
After our student presenters stepped aside, moderators Otto D. and Sydney F. moderated a very special Human Library Campaign panel on February's theme: ACTIVISM.
The panel featured (pictured below from left to right) Mirman alum Mattias Lehman, Mirman athletic coach Adrian Ferns, Room 3 student C.J. W., and C.J.'s mom, Mirman parent Lauren Lake.
All four panelists spoke about what activism meant to them, and shared ways that they personally practiced activism in their lives.
Lehman, who graduated from Mirman in 2003, spoke about having his passion for activism ignited by Mirman history teacher Peter Brady, whose love of history and fierce commitment to the right to voice one's opinion are well known on campus. Self-described as an "advocate for protecting the right to vote and assemble, decreasing economic inequality, fighting for racial justice, and expanding educational access to adolescents and young adults," Lehman had some poignant words for why it was important to get involved and stay involved in whatever cause is important to you.
"I would hate to be reading a history book about 2015 and not see myself represented in it because I had sat back and done nothing," he said, speaking of his involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement.
Lawyer, activist and entrepreneur Lauren Lake's love of activism began in childhood as well. "I became interested in activism because my parents grew up in the 1960s," said Lake. "A lot of things you've read about the Civil Rights Movement, my parents were there. And they told me those stories and taught me. And what they told me was, we have to learn how to speak up and use our voice."
While at the University of Michigan, Lake became involved in the Black Action Movement, participating in sit-ins and protests to ensure racial equality. When she was a law student, Lake said, she donated her time to the free legal aid clinic at the University of Michigan, which offered services to under-resourced people, often people of color. "I kept using my voice for others," she said.
Just as Lake's parents brought her into the fold of activism, Lake has encouraged C.J. to tap into those same passions. In particular, C.J. has developed an interest in advocating and assisting the homeless, said Lake. While photos of Lake and C.J. handing out food on Skid Row were projected in the background, C.J. spoke of what other causes were important to him.
"I made signs for the women's march with my mom. We also organize time to go feed the homeless and I want people to know that black boys and girls can do whatever they want. They can be scientists, artists, educators, builders, and more," he said.
"Activism is about more than just donating money," Lake added. "Activism is about getting involved in our actions."
The final panelist, Coach Adrian Ferns, also began his activist practice as a young boy. He would join his church, the Crenshaw Christian Center, as they led cleanups around his home city of Los Angeles. Later, in college in North Carolina, he would join the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, founded at the historically black Howard University in Washington D.C. There, practicing the principles of "manhood, scholarship, perseverance, and uplift," Ferns and his fraternity brothers would participate in rebuilding efforts for victims of hurricanes, and fundraised for schools who were devastated by extreme weather.
"What I've learned from that is, us as Americans, we like to pinpoint what we don't have in life. We need to stop worrying about which shoes we don't have or what we don't have and look forward to helping other people," said Ferns.
After Ferns shared more of his journey, he brought up one of his fraternity brothers onstage to do a hop that they had prepared for the Mirman assembly. Hopping and stepping, Ferns explained, had roots in African war dances. This dance, however, was meant to display pride and brotherhood, welcoming new members into their fraternity.
Later in the day, the Upper School welcomed various LEAP speakers to talk about how they practiced activism in their community. Speakers included Kevin Sousa, who started a grassroots campaign against oil drilling in Hermosa Beach; Mirman parent Kelli Kirkland, who spoke of her advocacy for drug education through the D.A.R.E. program; Lake, who talked to students about how they can become activists; Mr. Michael Taggart, who spoke of how free and open-source software is making the world a better place; and more!
To view some photos from the LEAP sessions as well as a collection of our Lower School activism signs, please click the video below: