Month of Understanding, 2019

MOU 2019 Week Six

Sally Cobb, staff writer

On Thursday 17, 2019, members of the Students of Color affinity space (SOC) and Green Team held a forum about environmental racism. There is often little discussion surrounding this topic, which is why this forum was so important. Environmental racism refers to environmental effects, like climate change or hazardous waste, that disproportionately affect people of color.

Xela Vargas ‘20, Kian Kafaie ‘19, Ally Pardo ‘19, Tiffany Yuen ‘19, and Leah Sandler ‘19, the leaders of the event, began by asking the room full of teachers and students what their image of an environmental activist is. In alignment with the room’s discussions, the leaders of the forum showed a slide of white celebrities, like Leonardo Dicaprio, who are environmental activists and often the face of environmental activism.

The leaders of the forum then asked the room what they thought environmental racism and environmental justice was. Environmental justice was defined by the leaders as adding the demands of social, economic and political justice to the environmental movement. The movement also aims to ensure that society’s relationship to the environment is equitable as well as sustainable and to eliminate environmental hazards for all. The “for all” portion of the definition is key because often times minority groups suffer from attempts at environmental justice or are left out of the movement completely.

The leaders then prompted the room to discuss what environmental issues they see prevalent in their own lives and where in their lives have they noticed any intersections between environmental and social issues. The three national and local issues that came up were the pollution and health issues in the Bay View/Hunter’s Point neighborhood of San Francisco, the hazardous air quality in Richmond, CA, and the effects of the Dakota Access Pipeline on the Standing Rock reservation in North and South Dakota.

After the conversation about these environmental issues, the room discussed about the role of social media and public figures in shedding light on environmental racism and justice. Many people brought up the point that celebrities and social media are great tools for bringing attention to issues, but often times the celebrity involved in the activism becomes the face of the issue, leaving the people who started the movement disregarded.

At the end of the forum, Kafaie ‘19 discussed food insecurity in the Arctic, a topic he is well versed in and of which a majority of the room had little knowledge. He talked about the impact of the efforts from environmental activism organizations, such as Green Peace, which tried to ban seal hunting, but did not consider that fact that seal hunting is a staple product for economic and nutritional success in Inuit communities. This issue is an example of when those who are activists for environmental justice don’t fully embody that term and don’t consider the intersection between race and environmental issues.

Once again, an MOU forum presents a topic that has little attention not only in the Urban community, but in our world, and allows Urban members to discuss the issue while connecting it to their own lives as a way to gain deeper understanding.

MOU 2019 Week Five

Sally Cobb, staff writer

On Friday, Jan 14, 2019, members of Multiculti conducted a forum about colorism. During lunch, the treehouse classroom was full of Urban students and faculty who were eager to discuss and learn more about colorism, which is a form of prejudice or discrimination in which people are treated differently based on their skin color and the social meanings attached to it, often occurring within a race rather than between races.

The leaders of the activity, Mikayla Woods ‘21, Lizzie Hayashi ‘20, Ben Nguyen ‘20, Ally Pardo ‘19, Julia Thaler ‘19 , began with inviting the room to discuss in partners about a time when they have thought about their own skin tone at any place or time in their life. Then, the leaders asked the room what they thought colorism was. The room immediately burst into discussion as peers and coworkers shared their ideas of a sometimes unknown, sometimes uncomfortable topic in the safe environment of a well attended, cheery, and open classroom.

After the room conversed for a few minutes, the leaders defined the difference between colorism and racism – two terms that often get used interchangeably. They proceeded to prompt the attendees to discuss questions such as how and when they notice their own skin tone or where and when they see colorism in our world.

The colorism forum was a great representation of why MultiCulti hosts Month of Understanding and why members of the Urban community should attend the events: it’s a perfect place for confusion, education and discussion to intersect. After each of the lunchtime events I attended during the first week of MOU (the religion panel, the colorism forum and the socioeconomic status cross the line activity), I left feeling that I gained knowledge from my peers that I otherwise would not have been able to, had the space not been available and I felt spent my lunch period well.

Week 6 includes the following events (in order): a cross the line activity hosted by the socioeconomic status affinity space leaders (took place on Monday), C.R.E.A.M.: a panel talking about social class and wealth at school (Tuesday), a panel about environmental racism (Thursday), and an MLK Jr All School Meeting with special guest, Zakiya Harris (Friday). Stay tuned for more coverage of the MOU lunchtime events.

Fall 2018

Sally Cobb, staff writer

Urban lunch periods often consist of students shuffling into rooms with lunch in their hands and a readiness to listen to their peers and teachers. Lunchtime events vary from panels and discussions to artistic activities and parties in the garden (commonly referred to as “Gardies”). The topic of these events can be just about anything (often including events happening in the world, the U.S., the Bay Area or even in the Urban community). Attendees seize the opportunity to listen to, learn from, and interact with community members they usually don’t get the chance to. This fall, Peer Resource and MultiCulti hosted an array of lunchtime events.

Peer Resource held an all-teacher panel about high school archetypes and a few weeks later they put on another teacher panel in which they discussed the culture of perfectionism and the feeling of not “being enough.” They contributed varying ideas and opinions that are more difficult to come by in a classroom due to the event topics not necessarily straying from Urban’s curriculum. Peer resource does a great job bridging individuals’ experiences together to offer not just our peers, but the whole community, education on topics we cannot learn in the classroom.

In October, a week was dedicated to the MultiCulti fest, which included events hosted by the affinity groups Student for Wear Equality and Rights (SWEAR), Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA), and Asian Pacific Islander (API). The events included a cross the line activity about breaking down misconceptions of your peers, a teacher and student panel about queer labels, a gathering to listen and dance to Asain bops, an activity for students to show how they celebrate women and a party in the garden (commonly called a “gardy”) that included food, music and art.

Lunchtime events are a great way to learn from and discuss with peers and teachers in a non-classroom environment. These were only a sneak peek into what the Urban community can expect in January during Month of Understanding. MultiCulti will host events during every lunch throughout the month. The members of the affinity spaces in MultiCulti work hard to curate events that educate the community and build a deeper understanding of different identities.

Yudi Feng ‘20, a member of MultiCulti and past host of lunchtime activities, expressed her appreciation for these events.

“It is important that [events] are at lunch because it shows an effort from individuals to discuss and listen to topics that are seen in the Urban community and greater world… it shows the emphasis on Urban’s multiculturalism,” Feng said.

Stay tuned for recaps of several lunch events in the upcoming Month of Understanding.