Students explore social justice issues in new club

Stephen Chien and Hanna Hornfeld

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In order to bring awareness to and enact change in the Middle Division (MD), MD students Louise Kim (8) and Emily Sun (8) founded the MD Social Justice Club, which explores topics from racism to body image.

The main goal of the club, which meets on Wednesdays from 3:30pm to 4:30pm, is to make the MD community aware about issues outside of their experiences at school.

“We know that this school is in a privileged environment, so the kids may not necessarily encounter all the different disparities going on,” co-faculty advisor Dr. Rhashida Hilliard said.

Another goal of the club is to facilitate a safe and secure environment for a meaningful discussion about issues such as fat shaming, body positivity, and diet culture. Members of the club are mindful of the fact that all members need to express their opinions, Hilliard said.

Club member Brooke Gomez (7) believes that the club is important to the MD community because aside from shedding light on important problems in the world, it is a safe space for people to express their feelings and views, Gomez said.

“The club gives people who are interested in issues, such as racism and sexism and transphobia, an opportunity to talk and feel like they can improve their community and their school,” Sun said.

The club aims to provide more awareness about social justice issues that have not been discussed in school, and that will open up the MD community’s mindset, Kim said.

Office of Identity, Culture, and Institutional Equity (ICIE) associate Sharina Gordon felt that the club provides a student-focused space for young people to wrestle with these issues in a way that was not necessarily made available before, she said.

The club is entirely student-initiated and student-driven, and all of the discussions are led by students. Co-faculty advisors of the club, Caitlin Hickerson and Hilliard, simply facilitate the conversation, Hickerson said.

Throughout the first trimester, the members of the club focused on issues surrounding race. After Thanksgiving, members attended grade-wide meetings, where they showed a video about Thanksgiving from the viewpoint of Native Americans and educated their peers on the importance of awareness of the holiday, Kim said.

Now, during the second trimester, the club is focused on issues around the social stigma surrounding body image and how body positivity shapes a person’s well-being, Hilliard said.

The club advocates for body positivity and equity, the quality of giving everyone fair access to opportunities and resources, Gomez said.

As Unity Week draws near, members of the club are hosting a workshop called, “Diet Culture to Fat Positivity,” in order to promote awareness in the MD community, Kim said. Some of the club’s members, including Kim and Sun, are also hosting individual workshops about topics such as mental health, race, and gender.

Because the club is still relatively new, one challenge it has faced is participation. While the club has several dedicated members so far, they are eager to add new members, Hickerson said.

“Moving forward, I am sure that the club is going to grow, and more students are going to have their voices heard,” Hilliard said.

In the third trimester, the club plans to focus on gender issues. In the future, the club hopes to connect to high school clubs like the Feminist Student Association (FSA), to work with teachers to integrate elements of social justice into the school’s curriculum, and most of all, to continue to grow and broaden its impact, Sun said.