This year, after months of learning and raising awareness about gender and racial discrimination within education, the Human Rights Team hosted our annual informative event on May 4th. The event kicked off with the testimonies of victims of racial or sexist prejudice in schools worldwide; which emphasized just how prominent this problem is- no matter where you are.
Next, we showed two quick videos- one about how racism within the American education system is the systemic result of slavery and the other was the story of an African American student with epilepsy and how he’s working to make schools more accessible for people like him.
The highlight of the event was a speech and Q&A session with our guest speaker, Eric Hutcherson, Executive Vice President, Chief People and Inclusion Officer at Universal Music Group (UMG), the world leader in music-based entertainment, who works to accelerate diversity and inclusion across all levels and territories, attract, retain and develop talent, accelerate the company’s social justice initiatives and build on UMG’s successful track-record of driving innovation by recruiting employees who bring new ideas, perspectives and skill sets (universalmusic.com). His speech was captivating as he moved so many of us with how his life has been affected by his race. Before leaving, he reminded us that despite anything that makes us different we should always tell ourselves “I am who I am and I like what I see…” Words, he insisted, we carry with us no matter what.
Following his incredible speech was a video, made by our very own video team, featuring classmates and teachers who answered questions about how, in their opinion, sex and race plays a role in students everyday lives. The answers were fascinating as every person involved had a unique opinion or antidote on the matter as everyone was of a different background, age and gender.
Finally, the event ended with a spirited debate led by the debate team, where the audience got to participate and share how they thought the education system should move forward to make it a more open and inclusive space. The debate ended the evening on a hopeful note as everyone, even the younger participants, voiced an aspiration for change!
It was a great night that left us all inspired to say the least! Thank you to everyone who took time to come and spend the evening with us, we hope you enjoyed it and to see you next year!
– The Human Rights Team
This year, despite the pandemic’s restrictions, we decided to spread love and joy for Valentine’s Day using candy grams. Candy grams are a treat paired with a note to be sent to friends, crush, or even a special someone. Not only was this a fun activity for the student body to participate in, but all the profits are going to a great cause, Oxfam France, an organization that helps families here in France who are suffering through the pandemic. We truly believe charity starts at home. Thanks to the exceptional work and support of all the members of our team and the supportive American section staff, this project was extremely successful and we earned 131 € to donate! A huge thanks to everyone involved and everyone who bought candy grams and we look forward to continuing this project in years to come!
Black History Month, which takes place every February, is a chance for everyone to learn details of a varied and rich side of history that is too often neglected. The occidental school system makes us mostly learn about important white figures, often pushing to the wayside the story of black and colored people, forgetting about people that marked history in their own way.
The Human Rights Team saw in the Black History Month an opportunity to raise awareness about this mostly-white perspective, along with the opportunity to put black figures at honor. In that spirit, the team made posters that we hung up around campus, each one of them presenting an important black or colored personality or activist. This poster campaign was designed to show the details of the work and the life of these people.
Here you can see an online version of some of the posters.
On the 21st of January, in commemoration of the great Martin Luther King Jr, the Human Rights Team has promoted a “Mix It Up” challenge throughout the campus. The concept, launched in 2001 by Teaching Tolerance (A project initiated by the Southern Poverty Law Center, founded in 1991 to prevent the growth of hate) has become a widespread phenomenon across the United States. It encourages students to move out of their comfort zone and connect with someone new over lunch.
“It’s a simple act with profound implications that we encourage educators to include in year-round efforts to promote healthy, welcoming school environments. Studies have shown that interactions across group lines can help reduce prejudice. When students interact with those who are different from them, biases and misperceptions can fall away.”(Teaching Tolerance, 2019). Our goal was to stop students from associating the cafeteria to an area where divisions are clearly—and harshly—drawn. We wanted to build new bridges, not only between people from different friend groups, but also of different ages, classes, sections and nationalities, unleashing the multiculturalism that is unique to our school. Therefore, we spread the word in our classes and friend groups, intent on changes and opening horizons.
The event, while a small but significant success, gave place to beautiful encounters. For instance, two of our club members, Lisa and Luna, had a wonderful experience. They sat next to some lovely 8th graders and learnt about their hobbies and interests, proving age is no obstacle. They later proceeded to sit with students who, while in the same year as them, they had never met or had the chance to speak to. “I had the opportunity to meet those wonderful people, that I would never had shared such a memorable moment with if it hadn’t been for the Mix It Up Day. They come from other classes and friend groups than mine and are in the Spanish and German sections which meaning that, naturally, the occasions in which we cross each other are rare. I was truly amazed at how nice and genuinely sweet they were, and I realized how we could exist in completely different worlds while
studying at the same school, walking the same corridors, eating at the same place everyday. Thinking back, it’s kind of scary to think that I could have missed such a lovely moment. I’m so grateful that it’s not the case. From now on, I’ll look forward to new encounter with got her students !” explained Lisa. We are enthralled by those feedback and even if it wasn’t the big event we dreamt of, we are motivated to make Mix It Up a tradition. We’ll persevere, year after year, to make it last, determined to connect people and destroy the walls of hate and intolerance. It’s still a little event, but we are convinced that small changes can make the difference and we’ll continue in the steps of Martin Luther King who one said “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”.
Regarding the current Covid-19 crisis, safety measures were respected.
Dr. Gholdy Muhammad is a self-named “disruptor of oppression”, professor at Georgia State University as well as the author of Cultivating Genius, a Promising New Researcher awarded book. She is passionate about changing our world into a more comfortable and open place for people of color and does so through education with the goal of creating a more equitable learning experience. Before winter break, the Human Rights Team was lucky enough to have the opportunity to meet with her over zoom.
Dr. Muhammad encouraged us to take an active stance against white-washed history, something she finds to be common in most education systems. She informed us that before discussing something like colonialism, a good history book will remind the reader of the beauty of a culture before its suppression. We learned that history texts without this “before” may be trying to accommodate to white readers. She also suggested we enrich our own knowledge about black culture with a simple google search of black archives.
Meeting with Gholdy Muhammad was a truly eye-opening experience and as a team we all benefited from her knowledge. The entire Human Rights Team is extremely grateful and humbled by all she managed to teach us in just an hour.
In late September, we held the first HRT meeting of the year, and asked our new and old members to research human rights violations and come back to present one of their choice to the rest of the team. We then voted on a theme to focus on for the year, because democracy is the voice of the people! Below are some pictures of the presentations:
- Mental illness
- Uighur concentration camps
- Modern slavery
- Discrimination in education
- Children’s rights
Each presentation carefully explained what human rights were being violated, the problems that originated from them, and shared some compelling examples. But it was now time to proceed to the two turn election: with striking majority, Education in Discrimination was chosen as our theme for this year, which we will present in our annual end of year events. We hope you will be there in one way or another!