Social Justice in a Land Called Topia
On Thursday, March 25, a vision came to life for our SDLC students, Rishi G., Arya F., Sukari F., Simone P., Soraya R., Dylan W., and Megan Y., as they hosted a social justice conference like no other for 75 middle school students across Los Angeles in a virtual world.
“We thought it was incredibly important for student coalition building to happen across school type. The fight for social justice cannot and should not happen in isolation. No matter where you live or what school you attend, we believe in Ubuntu - I am because we are. That’s one of the main messages of this conference,” said Dr. Tunette Powell.
The conference, "In the Middle of the Movement: The Revolutionary Act of Freedom Dreaming, Doing, and Planning," was hosted in "Topia," a spatial platform designed and created by "Heroes of Color" author and animator, David Heredia, and delivered a powerful opportunity for students to connect, imagine, and ignite their power as agents of change.
The half-day event kicked off with an intergenerational panel featuring activist, educator, and poet, Ericka Huggins, activist and scholar, David Turner, and student of excellence and Crenshaw High School graduating senior, Kamarie Brown. The mid-day panel included a student reflection discussion featuring middle school students from LAUSD and a number of independent schools, including some of our very own SDLC students! The closing speaker, Founder and CEO of SHE Wins, A'Dorian Murray-Thomas, encouraged students to be bold, to be committed, start right where they are, and to be motivated by the work of social change rather than the recognition of their efforts.Ericka Huggins shared that sometimes we can become impatient as we await seeing the results of our efforts towards impacting change but discomfort teaches and it important to sit with that discomfort in order to learn from it.
David Turner, leader of the Brothers, Sons, Selves Coalition educated students on the meaning of allyship, solidarity, and coalition building. He says that “allyship is understanding how and when to show up,” solidarity means “we share in the experience of similar conditions,” and coalition-building means that collectively we see that there is a common issue we are all experiencing even if we might be experiencing it differently, but it is those differences that make us collectively stronger.”
Kamarie Brown, boldly proclaimed her worth, her value, and her purpose, while also admitting that she did not always see herself as she does now. Her message to students was simply to “get involved and know that your presence is a present.” That was a mic-drop moment, to say the least!Throughout the various break periods, students had the opportunity to explore Topia, which came complete with a live arts center, a sports arena, a spoken word arena, a library, a wellness spa, a health center, and a beach, and so much more! Students also had the option of leaving a note or message in the world to express their feelings and leave feedback on their experience.
Associate Director of Admissions, Rita Anne Smith, shared that "this conference empowered our students to use their words to make some noise, to build a consciousness that creates action against systems that facilitate racism and to understand that their youth, their education, and their commitment — that is their strength. Our hope is that they begin to see that working together is what will facilitate change."
This conference was nothing short of epic and we are immensely grateful to Dr. Tunette Powell and Ms. Christina Pak for their unwavering commitment to making this conference unforgettable — and that it was!