Last Friday, faculty, staff, and students participated in the first all-school Social Justice Day. Workshops and lessons were conducted in each division on topics ranging from social and environmental justice, civil rights, racism, and representation, to sports activism, land acknowledgments, and immigration. As a school that embraces social justice standards, "it only makes sense that we would dedicate a day to stop our routine to reflect, respond, and bring awareness," says Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Michelle Belton.
Students engaged in thoughtful analyses of diversity, equity, and representation in various contexts. In Middle School, students joined teachers in developing and leading some workshops. With each opportunity that students take to step into someone else's shoes, they cultivate empathy and the ability to tackle issues through multiple perspectives. Across the campus, children created murals, wrote songs and raps, made protest signs, and "zoom quilts." They pitched ideas for solving world problems, investigated and discussed foreign policy, issues surrounding sexuality and consent, and the evolution of Asian visibility. Students came away with a deeper understanding of current social issues equipped with tools to become better allies, raise awareness and support on issues they care about, and lift the voices of identities treated one-dimensionally in history.
In Pre-Primary School, students learned about Native American history, the Dakota Pipeline project, and the importance of protecting the earth's resources. The 3-year-olds took the Earth Steward and Water Protector Pledge and made signs voicing their support of Native peoples. Children read books Dream Drum Girl and Sometimes We March. Teachers led them in discussions about gender norms and acceptance and what the word "injustice" means. Children learned the importance of listening to each other, being brave with their voices, and how to work together to solve problems. Teachers documented ideas, reflections, and feelings of students to create a mural.
In Primary School, students' experiences were highlighted by Jaden Founteroy, founder of Little Things Big Impact. Jaden showed how she became a young activist inspired by a march she attended with her family. Since then, Jaden has led several community initiatives, including donation drives, running a mobile library to provide books for children, and educating the public about candidates running for local office. Jaden's work has led her to collaborate with other youth activists and be a part of regional student diversity leadership conferences. Jaden encourages kids to explore topics they care about and find ways to get involved. Her message that kids can make a difference in the world resounded with students during a special Gathering.
Middle School students kicked off the day watching the documentary "Virtually Free," followed by a conversation with Director André Lee, and one of the young men featured in the film, Sid—whose quote from the film, "bond with the unknown," became a part of the theme for the day. After the film, André shared with the students his desire to "build an army of change agents," asking students to consider the question, "what does it mean for all of us to work together to make the world a better place?" Students asked André if anything had changed in the Midlothian community since the documentary. "Systemic racism and the economic divide is 400+1 years old, centuries-old in the world, so it will take a long time to deconstruct it and rebuild," André thoughtfully answered. André emphasized the importance of youth sharing their voices and concerns with local leaders and lawmakers. He encourages students to write letters and express the changes they want to build a better future. Planting a seed of action, André asked the students to imagine how effective it would be if an entire school picked an issue to write about to their local leaders.
Students were surprised with a visit from Sid, a young man featured in the film. Students asked Sid if he saw any changes in Richmond after the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests over the summer. Sid reminded kids how contentious the protests were, referring to some of the destruction that occurred in the city, similar to DC. But, he acknowledges that BLM protests did change the interactions he has had with police. "When police approach you, it's with a smile now," he says, "I can have an actual conversation with the police and not fear for my life."
As organizers broaden Social Justice Day's scope, more opportunities arise to raise awareness and engage the entire Lowell Community in activism. To see a sampling of this year's workshops and resources, visit our Social Justice Day page on the website. Want to get involved? Contact Michelle Belton.
Lowell School is a private PK-8th grade school located in NW Washington, DC. At Lowell students gain the knowledge, skills, and social-emotional literacy to be the bold leaders and creative problem solvers our world needs.