Students Lead Workshops on Anti-Racism

For students, by students


Credit: Maxwell Creager-Roberts

Students planned the workshops in response to the racism they have witnessed locally, nationally, and personally. Here, the memorial for Heather Heyer, who was killed during the 2017 Unite the Right rally, is still maintained on 4th Street downtown.

Beginning this Friday, students from the Multicultural Club and the Union of Color at WAHS are leading student-lead workshops centering around education, identification, and prevention of racism in our schools. The workshops are available to any high school student and will take place on Zoom over the next four Fridays (4/16, 4/23, 4/30, and 5/7) from 2:15 – 4:00.  The four sessions will address: Listening to Understand Racism, What Racism Is, The ACPS Anti-racism Policy, and How to Be an Anti-racism Advocate. The mission of these workshops is to educate, inspire, and stop the spread of racism in the future. 

Over the past two years, the Black Lives Matter movement has gained more attention and awareness, particularly with the protests of 2020 following the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. Additionally, following the murders of 8 Asian people at a salon parlor in Atlanta last month, the Stop Asian Hate movement has gained increased recognition too. These movements shine a light on the long standing impacts of individual, institutional, and structural racism in our country, including the ways in which racism affects our education system for students of color. 

Although, historically, adults have been the ones to address racism in schools, the students of the Multicultural Club and Union of Color have stepped up and taken matters into their own hands. 

The founders of this project are seniors Diana Kim, Halle Brockett, and Stella Rowe. Brockett explained that the intention of these workshops are to equip participants with the tools and capabilities to carry out meaningful, productive conversations and discussions in their lives regardless of the topic through an anti-racism lens.”  

Sophomore Lauren Broussard has helped plan the workshops. “Discussing racism with anyone, especially people at school, is a difficult, and uncomfortable topic,” she notes, so in preparing the content for the Anti-racism workshops, leaders tried to focus on the history and consequential “domino effect” of racism, rather than placing blame on a specific party.

Founder Diana Kim drew inspiration for the program from current events. “The events that happened last summer inspired me, like how they inspired many people. It’s my senior year, so I felt this level of urgency to do something for Western before leaving. Our school has its flaws, and addressing racial disparities and issues is one of them. I thought, maybe if I helped take this first step, it would help push others to take more steps forward.” 

 Brockett agrees that change is needed. “My life has inspired me to do this, viewing constant instances of racism all around me and feeling as if nothing ever changes. But beyond that, Diana inspired me to work on these workshops, because without her initiative I don’t believe I ever would have begun the process.”

Mr. Shutt, a WAHS teacher and a moderator for the workshops, explained “I think racism is often misunderstood, as it’s become more about a feeling than a comprehensive view of how systems and institutions in our society are built to maintain a certain hierarchy that puts entire groups of Americans at a disadvantage.” 

Ms. Akers, an English 9 and Debate teacher, fully supports these workshops, recognizing their necessity and relevance. “I think it’s really important and really great for students to have these conversations and from what I’ve found a lot of students at Western are open to having these conversations and feel like they’re needed.” 

Kim says, “Everyone has an equal responsibility to work against racism, not just those directly affected by it. We encourage everyone to reflect upon how they listen, empathize, and advocate and try their best to become better — hopefully with the help of these workshops.”

WAHS is a predominantly white school.  In recent years, there have been cases of students supporting Confederate imagery and incidents of the use of racial slurs. Most recently, allegations were made that a WAHS student athlete used a racial slur in a sports competition. This again initiated more talk about racism in our school, what it is, and how to prevent it. 

Kim hopes that by opening the door to educating current students about racism, future students will continue to educate themselves and practice anti-racism, even after she has graduated from WAHS.

 If these workshops are a success, they can open more doors for events and activities like these in the future. This would lead to growth and necessary change to make our schools more educated about racism and how to prevent it. Mr. Shutt says he “would highly encourage anyone and everyone to attend!”  

To attend the workshops, students should sign up at this link: Anti-Racism Workshop Sign Up