ASM Speaker Hosts Workshop Advocating Acceptance and Awareness

Students leaders of Community and Multicultural Development (CAMD) Clubs and of Active Minds met with mental health advocate Hakeem Rahim for a workshop centered around student wellness on September 25.

In addition to reading Rahim’s poem, “It’s Not Those Days,” students received a copy of Rahim’s book, “Magenta Your Conscience.” Students then reflected on themes of acceptance.

Hywot Ayana ’20, a board member on Out of the Blue, a CAMD club focused on building community awareness, enjoyed how the workshop focused on student voices and writing.

“I liked how [the workshop] wasn’t based all around lecture or anything like that. He let us do a lot of writing about stuff that I wouldn’t have usually explored by myself. Also, we got to close-read his poetry, which I think is pretty cool to not be asked what something means but instead be asked what it means to you and connect it to your life,” said Ayana.

Rahim was invited to speak and host the workshop by Dr. Susan Esty, Director of Wellness Education, and Suzanne Heon, Interim Director of the Sykes Wellness Center.

“One of our foundations is collaborating with students because any good programming or intervention is meeting a need. Students know best what your needs are and so I think we encourage students to let us know. Through EBI [Empathy, Balance, and Inclusion] we work with students and ask for student input,” said Esty.

After writing responses to Rahim’s poem, students at the workshop were given the opportunity to read their work out loud. Responses ranged from spoken word poems to a page of prose.

Hazel Koh ’21, who also participated in Rahim’s workshop, found the workshop encouraging to the students.

“I really loved it, Mr. Hakeem Rahim was very inspiring and I hope that we can have more speakers like him on campus,” said Koh.

“I learned a lot from the other students when we shared out what we wrote. Reading his poetry made me think a lot about what it means to be you and to be you is to be you even when it’s hard,” Ayana said.

According to Esty, Rahim delivered a message of hope during conditions of mental illnesses to the students.

“I think talking about mental health anywhere, anytime is important because it’s just not part of our culture to talk about mental health, which needs to change, really for everyone’s general wellness. [We were] thinking what can we do that acknowledges mental illness and struggle but also has a message of hope, which he [Rahim] does,” Esty said.

Ayana agreed, noting the importance of date for many students.

“This is a really important week for all of us. I think you should take every opportunity you can to learn about something you haven’t completely explored yourself or don’t completely understand,” Ayana said.