Diversity Awareness Week 2022
In an ongoing stride towards making our school a more inclusive and accepting community, Diversity Awareness Week provides us with an opportunity for open discussions and open-minded learning. Organizing the week was the Diversity Awareness Club with faculty advisor Dr. Charles Garfield and co-presidents Preya Patel, Tatia Maisuradze and Camille Arruda. From Monday, Feb. 8 to Friday, March 4, the Diversity Awareness Club sponsored various events covering topics such as gender equality, religious acceptance, eating disorders, LGBTQ+ rights and climate change.
According to Dr. Garfield, the goal of Diversity Awareness Week is “to bring more awareness of diversity issues to the general school population. It’s always about celebrating those different identities where we can all come together.” Throughout the week, different speakers and events “bring more information, whether that information will help enlighten students or show them another perspective that they probably never thought of.”
During each block of the school day, speakers volunteered their time to share their experiences with students virtually. For example, one of the events on Monday included leaders of the Interfaith Council of Southwestern Connecticut discussing the beauty in us all and the necessity of acceptance within our community. As a member of the Diversity Awareness Club, I had the opportunity to introduce our guests, Reverend Mark Lingle, Rabbi Joshua Hammerman and Dr. Kareem Adeeb. Listening to them speak about the misconceptions of their religions and their underlying similarities was a profound reminder of the continuous struggle to reconcile divisions caused by stereotypes and prejudice.
On Tuesday, among many other events, a panel of GHS students and students from Calabar, Nigeria, answered questions about gender equality within our communities. As one of the panelists, I was able to listen and contribute to the conversation; one topic that particularly inspired me was our discussion of why gender equality is a concern for everyone, not just women. We compared and contrasted barriers to gender equality, the effects of the pandemic on gender roles and current initiatives to improve human rights.
Fellow panel member Arruda says, “For students from Nigeria, which have a totally different experience, different traditions, different cultures, it’s interesting to see how they are treating the progress of equality versus how we are.” Overall, hearing the perspective of the Nigerian students was an impactful way to recognize the degrees of gender inequality in different communities and the role that young leaders can have in inciting change.
The next day, another joint panel was held on climate change, combining GHS students with students from Colegio Champal in Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico. Throughout Thursday, three women shared their experiences in their respective fields. In the morning, Salomé Egas, an Ecuadorian mestiza performer, discussed finding self-love through the performing arts and utilizing creativity to embrace one’s uniqueness. Later, Corinne Flax, the Manager of School and Community Partnerships at the Bruce Museum, spoke about cultivating ethical and diverse museums to be sources of artistic, scientific, and historical education. Finally, Jamie Manirakiza discussed her work as the Executive Director at Partnership to End Human Trafficking. Whether it be exploring identity expression, the responsibilities of museums or efforts being made to combat human trafficking, students gained a better sense of the nuances within these subjects.
After additional speakers throughout Friday, the week was closed out in a finale event performed by Samba New York. The performance was a celebration of music, dance, and culture: the perfect, high-energy way to conclude Diversity Awareness Week. As Dr. Garfield says, “I always found that music and dance are some of the best means of getting anyone to appreciate and participate in other cultures.”
The impact of Diversity Awareness Week goes beyond the week itself. Patel says, “Diversity Awareness Week can impact our school in a positive way because it gives students the chance to talk to each other about the events or discussions they watched, specifically on views or backgrounds different from their own.”
Similarly, Dr. Garfield states, “I do hope that students and teachers have the opportunity to reflect on what they heard, what they saw, and use that new information to inform whatever decisions that they have to make…I’m hoping that when we have all the presentations, we can come back later and look at an individual or a place or a community with a different lens.”
Throughout Diversity Awareness Week, students learn from local and international individuals working towards creating a more inclusive, safe, and welcoming world. Yet, the discussion of diversity does not end on March 4. Instead, Diversity Awareness Week acts as an ignition for students to continue the conversation with the people in their lives and become an advocate for improving our community.