The Record

Reflecting on Unity Week speakers and workshops

Griffin Smith and Malek Shafei

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Members of the school community learned about the concept of covering and discussed issues like race, sexuality, and religion through student and faculty run workshops and guest speakers in the 2018 Unity Week.
The week, which took place from January 16-January 19, kicked off with a assembly with guest speaker Kenji Yoshino, who spoke about covering and how it is present in our everyday. Yoshino detailed specific examples of covering and offered a variety of statistics to support his claims.
Faijul Rhyhan (11) believes “it was crucial to explain this concept to the HM students,” Ryhan said. “Many people actively cover, and I believe that it was important to bring that to light.”
English Department Chair Vernon Wilson was fascinated by Yoshino’s presentation and the concept of covering, Wilson said. “I liked his distinction between covering and passing. He was a very thoughtful speaker, and I was glad he kicked off our discussions,” Wilson said.
Unity Week comprised different workshops, where students or teachers presented topics and opened discussions with the participants. Presentations that ranged from racism and stereotypes to gender and sexuality took place.
Govind Menon (12), who attended workshops on stereotype, racial biases, and religion, felt that the discussions were informative, but he also recognized the “safety” of the discussions, Menon said.
“At our workshop on stereotypes, we didn’t really discuss true stereotypes; we only talked about suburban versus urban people, which doesn’t really teach anyone or create a good debate,” Menon said. “The conversations were almost watered down,” Menon said.
While there was an option to go to workshops on your own, some students felt pressure to not ask their teachers to go. Daniel Wolf (10) wanted to go to certain workshops, but they conflicted with classes he had. “At times, I wanted to go to a specific workshop, but I felt that it was more important to stay in class due to upcoming tests and assignments I had.” Wolf said.
Jack Crovitz (9) attended workshops on Hawaiian resistance music, feminism, gender-norms, and Tai Chi. The workshops introduced Crovitz to new topics, and also developed his views on topics he had already been aware of, he said.
The week was well organized, but the workshops could be improved by “making workshops more accessible for students to be more of an active participant, rather than just be a receiver of the knowledge,” Crovitz said.
Ahaan Palla (10) thought the assembly was a great way to start off the week to bring awareness to something that is relevant to almost everyone, Palla said. He also enjoyed the Rosetta Lee workshop that focused on gender and sexual identities, Palla said.
Wilson took all of his classes to student run workshops on female sexuality, gender, and health disparities. “All of the workshops were very thoughtful. On the whole, the students found the workshops to be very interesting. The workshops created discussion topics for the next classes,” Wilson said.
Edward Ahn (11) valued his experience this year much more than last year because of the number of workshops he was able to attend, he said. His teachers brought him to several, and he was able to participate in the Q&A session with Yoshino, Ahn said.
“The school is helping students know what they’re supposed to know to be more aware and develop a sense of empathy,” Chemistry teacher Dr. Rachel Mohammed said. “Now that you have been made aware, it’s up to you to practice these values, it’s no longer an excuse to say that you’re not informed,” Mohammed said.

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Reflecting on Unity Week speakers and workshops