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Students Reflect on MLK Day Activism Workshops

COURTESY OF PHILLIPS ACADEMY

COURTESY OF PHILLIPS ACADEMY

At Andover, Martin Luther King Jr. Day (MLK Day) serves as a day-on for the community; it is a day on which students attend programming outside of their classes to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr., as well as the work he did in his lifetime. Each workshop, offered to Uppers and Seniors, covered a different facet of identity or race and how it connects to Martin Luther King Jr.’s message. After facilitating these workshops, attendees and coordinators expressed their reactions to their projects, as well as the impact of the work done in Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy at Andover.

Silvia Ng ’23, Participant, “¡Bienvenides a todes!: Inclusive Language and Gender Identity in the Spanish Speaking World”

For the beginning of this term, I was using ella [she/her] in Spanish class, because I just didn’t tell my teacher or anybody else that I use they/them pronouns. But I think after this workshop, I’m going to embrace it, and tell my teacher that I’d like to use elle [they/them] instead of ella. I’m not sure how that will go, but I’m hoping it will go well. I think that especially because I come from a Spanish speaking family, because my parents are Dominican and there’s a lot of Spanish at home, I might try to get them to use elle as well.

Corrie Martin, Instructor in English, Faculty Coordinator, “Asian-American Artivism” and “Beyond Remembrance: Trans Empowerment, Then and Now”

[This experience has taught me] that we need to get out of our students’ way more often… It’s always a risk, especially when we’re talking about really hard and dangerous topics to risk. Maybe you feel like, ‘is it irresponsible of us to let go?’ But I think if we are doing our jobs right we should feel that we can take that risk, especially on a day like MLK Day, right? Because the youth, historically, are the ones who always lead the changes… how paradoxical not to let go, to not to get out of their way on a day like MLK Day. I think that yesterday really proved that that’s the way it should be. I mean, we should be there to support and question and, you know, push them to greatness, to excellence, and then get out of the way.

Camila McGinley ’23, Participant, “Mental Health Disparities Among Marginalized Racial and Ethnic Groups”

I think I learned more about other groups and we learned a lot of statistics and I know one of the ones that stood out to me was that the racial group least likely to reach out for mental health help is the Asian race. I also thought about how, for some groups, there wasn’t enough data to put in there, like for mixed race and Indigenous people. It was really interesting to learn about different stigmas in communities I belong to and communities I don’t belong to.

Frank Zhou ’22, Student Facilitator, “Beyond the Dollar Bill: Social Justice and Economics” and “System Error: Racism in AI”

For me, I took statistics last year with Ms. Greenburg and we’d only done a cursory survey of the opportunity insights data. [The Beyond the Dollar Bill: Social Justice and Economics workshop] was an opportunity to do a more thoughtful, deep dive into it, and to bring others along as we did. For the Racism in AI [workshop], I was friends with all of the facilitators that I pulled in for the project, so it was just a really fun organizing process and AI will become ever more ubiquitous, so in a sense, a study of racism in AI is a study of racism in society. At the very end took a look at an interactive AI model called GPT3, essentially, a predictive model, very good at mimicking everything on the internet. If you give it a statement, it’ll spit back out what it thinks would follow. That was really interesting to see the AI model do in real-time. It was an exercise in how an AI model [can be] racist and biased.

Kyla Santos ’23, Student Facilitator, “The Battle Between Black Success and Black Identity”

Originally, [the workshop] was [Arielle Wayner’s ’23] idea because she has a family friend who works at The Apollo, which is a theater known for having Black artists and actors [perform]. We wanted to do a workshop surrounding that. That led us to success within the Black community. But we didn’t want to just focus on actors, we wanted to include musicians, athletes, and public figures, different kinds of success. We wanted [the participants] to leave the workshop to consider black identity and the significance of having that identity in a country like America, and no matter how successful you become, you can never truly detach yourself from the identity, it follows you everywhere you go.