Urban’s Month of Understanding ends with call for self-reflection, listening

David Immerman, Staff Writer

January, a month of resolutions and appreciations, inspires for many the feelings of forgiveness, hopefulness, and a fresh start. With these emotions in mind, Urban began the new year with the Month of Understanding, a series of events organized by the Multi-Culti Committee and intended to “encourage students to step outside their comfort zones … explore steps toward building alliances across differences; and finally to create safe spaces to have open dialogue on multicultural issues at Urban.”

The over-arching theme of this year’s Month of Understanding was “building bridges,” a phrase signifying the desire for the community to “explore steps towards building alliances (across differences).” Multi-Culti labeled the first week of January as “listen to learn,” claiming in a school-wide email that “listening is an essential part to being an ally. We have planned forums and activities this week to provide spaces where we can go to learn from one another by listening to experiences of both teachers and students in our community. “

Students and teachers attended events such as a SWEAR teacher panel, where female teachers reflected on being women allies and/or women of color, and an all-school meeting with a guest speaker Rick Ayers, a professor of teacher education at the University of San Francisco.

At the assembly, Ayers reflected on his experiences in the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement of Vietnam. Coming from a place of power and privilege, Ayers shared how he sought to be an ally of social justice. Ayers also encouraged students to think about what types of systems we accept today as both wrong but socially acceptable, giving the prison system as an example.

For Ben Geffner (’14), “the Month of Understanding is like a scavenger hunt, where you are always trying to find out more about other (people’s identity).” This feeling aligns perfectly with one of Multi-Culti’s main goals for the month: “Encourage self-reflection to have deeper understanding of ourselves and others.”

Isabel Fife-Cook (’13) said that this month is “a good way to condense a lot of the issues that we don’t talk about during the rest of the year.”

However, she raised questions about how much students really need a structured discussion instead of finding answers on their own. “It’s good to be aware of (issues) like race,” she said, but added that she doesn’t always see how the issues discussed are “relevant to (her).”