Justin Martinez ‘20 took the mic and told his story.
“Discrimination,” he said before 100-plus students at lunch Friday afternoon. “You hear of it, but you never expect to see it in your own life. Personally, I’m not affected by rude remarks because I’ve learned that there’s nothing wrong unapologetically being myself.”
Students clapped. Several snapped. The the room hung on his every word as he continued.
“We have to walk through life proudly with our heads held high, but how long do we have to endure people and their constant attempt to try and tear us down?” he said. “It’s exhausting and destructive.”
Justin’s words were anything but.
One of a dozen students who signed-up for the first-ever LEADing in Solidarity Open Mic event earlier this month, Justin and his peers opened a window into their minds and beliefs inside the cafeteria during both blocks of lunch. The performers read, rapped, danced and, above all else, demonstrated the LEAD Ethos, namely courage, commitment and self-reliance.
The performances were the end result of a Crew lesson but together by teachers Lyzette Garza, Christine Harris and Keshia Ray Thompson as a way for students to celebrate their diversity, differences and culture. Students created posters celebrating diversity, unity and acceptance as part of the project.
“Being able to celebrate the diversity of our students is always important,” Ms. Garza said. “Being able to work on a Crew art project allowed us to embrace all those differences and celebrate them while working together in solidarity. As a Mexican-American teacher, it is important to me that I work in a space that seeks to value our students’ struggles, fears, identities and cultural capital.”
One by one on Friday, Feb. 3, students shared their thoughts on diversity and cultural awareness and acceptance. One by one, students in the audience listened respectfully and attentively.
“This activity let us know as students how diverse we are,” said Antwan Tate. “I like that fact that I am surrounded by students different than me.”
By the day of the Open Mic, the school’s hallways were adorned with messages of love, unity and respect for all.
“Our community is getting stronger by the day due to this activity,” said Christine Harris, the high school’s director of college counseling, when the Crew projects began. “I’ve witnessed laughter, joy and hope as students work together to send a message of solidarity.”