Reflecting on Month of Understanding

An array of forums, panels and interactive events prompted the Urban community to question both their immediate community and the world around them. From January 11 to February 3, a total of 13 events were hosted by MultiCulti forming this year’s Month of Understanding (MOU).

MultiCulti open members, who are not affiliated with a certain affinity space, and affinity space leaders combined last year’s virtual format with the historical in-person format, making this year’s events more accessible than ever. Zoom made bringing in experts and outside voices easier, furthering the level of exploration MOU accomplished. With help from affinity space members, leaders began brainstorming event ideas in November, taking the next month and a half to draft slideshows, prepare questions and finalize logistics to ensure a smooth and thought-provoking MOU. MOU is meant to start conversations, not finish them. In hopes of continuing the conversation, below is a list of the 2022 MOU events and the topics the community investigated during each event:

Cross the Line:
Cross the Line is an interactive event that often kickstarts MOU. Hosts read aloud a series of statements and participants are asked to step across a line into the smaller circle if the statement applies to them. Cross the Line encourages participants to practice vulnerability, an essential tool that is exercised throughout the month.

Pass the Aux:
Pass the Aux, an event in which students are encouraged to play their favorite songs, has also become an MOU staple. Placed at the beginning of the month, MultiCulti members host the annual event with the intention of encouraging bonding through music to build and strengthen relationships within the community.

Tabbouleh Party: (MENA)
The Middle East/North African affinity space hosted a party on the Salkind Center Roof leading students, faculty and staff through the Tawadrous family’s tabbouleh recipe to showcase the richness of Middle Eastern culture that often gets left out of the Middle East’s narrative.

Hannah Tawadrous ‘22, MENA co-leader, said, “I think it’s really cool that we got a diversity of grades to come and experience MOU and Middle Eastern culture. It makes me sad that so much of the conversation around Middle Eastern culture is shrouded by conflict. I hope that people realized how fun and celebratory Middle Eastern culture is by learning how to make a traditional meal and listening to some fun Persian beats.”

Yaa Gyasi All School Meeting (ASM) + Discussion Groups:
During the ASM on January 10, Yaa Gyasi, author of “Homegoing,” joined the entire school community virtually as MultiCulti members asked Gyasi questions. Following ASM, students were given the opportunity to debrief and discuss what they took away from the interview with Gyasi in small groups.

Yaa Gyasi Panel Moderator Ellie Howell ’22 said, “I asked Yaa Gyasi a question about race in the real world that has been eating at me for the majority of my high school experience…Getting this question answered by a highly successful woman such as Yaa, who has to deal with this issue as a writer of color, was very uplifting for me and I hope it could be a similarly uplifting experience for other students of color.”

Period Poverty; the Intersection of Wealth & Reproductive Care: (SWEAR/FASES)
The Students for Women Equality and Rights and the Financial Aid and Socio-Economic Status affinity spaces worked together to host a panel that highlighted the inequalities within the reproductive care system. Panelists discussed and touched on a number of different topics such as the ‘Pink Tax.’

Shabbat 101: (Jew Crew)
Jew Crew hosted a meeting on the Salkind Center Roof which featured a discussion of the tradition of Shabbat and the importance of prayer as students shared babka, a sweet bread loaf.

Noa Marks ‘23, co-leader of Jew Crew, said, “I am most proud of the fact that we had a meaningful discussion and how throughout the discussion people got more comfortable sharing and open[ing] up. I hope people now know more about Judaism than they did, and understand the values of Judaism and how they relate to their own lives.”

Racial Ambiguity: (MESH)
MESH, the multiracial and multiethnic affinity space organized and moderated a panel that spotlighted the voices of both students and faculty members. Panelists discussed the similarities and differences between their everyday experiences navigating the world as a racially ambiguous individual.

MESH co-leader Paget Chung ‘22 said, “the panelists were very insightful and honest on the panel. I am proud of surfacing a topic that is not frequently discussed. I hope that people in the audience…learned more about the experiences of those who identify as racially ambiguous or white passing.”

Immigration Panel: (API)
The Asian Pacific Islander affinity space moderated this year’s Immigration Panel and invited five guest speakers who shared the immigrant experience, whether first hand or first-generation, to broaden the definition of the immigrant experience. Panelists spoke to questions like, “what was the most culturally shocking thing when you or your ancestor arrived in the U.S.?” and “what does the American Dream mean to you?”

Intersectionality of race, class and gender with learning differences: (LDNS ft. SOC)
The Learning Difference and Neurodiversity Space worked with the Students of Color affinity space and invited Learning Specialist Dr. Alyson Kaneshiro to give the Urban community the opportunity to learn more about how identifiers like race, class and gender impact one’s experience with neurodiversity.

Drag Party: (GSA)
The Gender-Sexuality Alliance in partnership with Maya Herbsman, Urban’s theater director, brought drag performer Cassidy LeBlanc to perform for the student body in the Gumption Theater. LeBlanc embodied and showcased the importance of celebrating queer music and dance.

The Language of Race within the LatinX Community: (LatinX)
Spotlighting, Enver Casimir, Urban’s Race in Latin American History teacher, and Chris Williams, Identity and Ethnic Studies teacher, LatinX organized a forum that explained the complicated history behind the names of different racial groups that compose Latin America.

Yosi Colin, LatinX co-leader, said “although the event was focused more on LatinX people, I hope everyone starts discussing the terms used to describe people in the census and reflect on who they are and how they identify themselves, but also more about the fact that we have to choose boxes that might or might not fully describe who we are.”

Women Teachers of Color Panel: (SWEAR/SOC)
In SWEAR’s second collaboration during MOU, SOC and SWEAR came together to give Urban’s female teachers of color a space to share their experiences as women of color in relation to education.

How to talk to your friends about race: (BSU/SOC/AWPA)
Coinciding with the first day of Black History Month, Urban’s Black Student Union hosted and moderated a panel that encouraged and offered students a place to start productive conversations about race. The three-way collaboration brought more diverse perspectives.

Lunar New Year Celebration: (API)
The day after Lunar New Year, API hosted a dim sum Salkind Center roof party in celebration of the Year of the Tiger. With an assortment of dumplings, buns and desserts, co-leaders reminded students and faculty members of the many ways in which Lunar New Year is celebrated around Asia.

Gender & Fashion:
Closing out MOU 2022, open MultiCulti members Sofie Van Natta ’22 and Willow Brown ’22 organized and hosted a panel discussion that allowed students to speak about how they use fashion as a form of self-expression.