Students discuss race, social movements at student activism seminar

Ava Fattahi and Will Sheehy

Dean and Physical Education Teacher Jon Carroll facilitated an activism seminar for upper school students Wednesday, in which he discussed youth-influenced movements surrounding race and culture. 

Carroll used historical texts and media to display the importance of institutional change incited by students, including sit-ins in the Jim Crow South and the more recent Black Lives Matter protests sweeping across the United States and the world.

Carroll also told the story of a time he felt inspired during his visit to the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. It was there on March 7, 1965, police attacked civil rights protesters, including the late Georgia representative John Lewis. Carroll went on to describe the courage of the activists,

 “[Imagine] standing there, on that bridge and trying to imagine what it must have looked like walking over that bridge with civil rights workers and seeing police with billy clubs and horses and just coming to grips with the idea that you potentially are going to be beaten,” Carroll said. “You could potentially lose your life if you continue to try to move forward.”

He also brought up the possibility of creating a large online audience, which could lead to possible partnerships with government officials or others in positions of power. Students were then put into breakout rooms, where they had the chance to reflect in smaller groups. 

“I appreciated the discussion we had at the seminar, especially the more intimate ones in breakout groups,” Ash Wright ’22 said. “I hope this seminar is the first of many more conversations that we will have at school regarding race and current events surrounding the black community and police brutality.”

Carroll said he believes these discussions surrounding advocacy will likely become a permanent part of the school and may evolve into a new course. 

Black Leadership Awareness and Culture Club leader Cameron Herring ’21 said she would love to have more of these discussions, and she appreciates that the school is now taking time to create free resources for kids to learn about these issues. She said she is moved by the influx of activism she has seen from many people, including those in the school community. 

Head Prefect Cleo Maloney ’21 said Prefect Council plans to revamp the honor code to become a “community code,” which would include topics such as race, gender and abilities. 

The student activism seminar closed with Carroll and Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Janine Jones thanking students for the productive and respectful discussion. They encouraged those of voting age to consider issues of race as voting day approaches.