More than 55 Loomis Chaffee students and faculty members came together for a student-led symposium on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion on Friday evening, May 7, in Founders Hall.
The event, which featured five workshops and a presentation of informative posters, aimed to “educate the community on different topics that mainly people of color are facing today,” explained senior Azaan Malik, co-president of the student organization People Rising in Support of Multiculturalism (PRISM). PRISM and the Loomis Chaffee Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) sponsored the symposium.
The event gave PRISM leaders and DEI student interns an opportunity to present on issues about which they are passionate. The in-person event was inspired by the student- and faculty-led Zoom workshops that were part of the school’s January discussions about the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
Participants each had an opportunity to attend two 45-minute workshops. Approximately 10 students and faculty attended each presenter’s session, and the small size of the groups enabled people to open up and have productive conversations. The workshop topics included the evolution of words and terminology used to describe identity, the hypersexualization and adultification of Black women in the larger community, the intersectionality in the Black and LGBTQ+ communities, gentrification in Black communities, and the impact of environmental racism.
The PRISM co-presidents, seniors Miriam Bussell-Alonso, Thierno Diallo, Simone Moales, Evan Petkis, and Azaan, in partnership with seniors Colette Wicks and Biani Ebie and junior Mercy Olagunju, led four of the workshops. DEI interns sophomores Rene Russell, Angelina Amastal, Inari Barrett, and Kirsten Lee led the session on environmental racism.
In their workshop on intersections between the Black and LGBTQ+ communities, Azaan and Biani provided context for the topic in the first few minutes then quickly moved into facilitator mode. Using a four corners discussion strategy, they asked participants to take positions on specific statements by standing in a particular corner of the room to indicate they strongly agreed, agreed, disagreed, or strongly disagreed with the statements. Once in that corner, participants talked with others standing with them about why they held that opinion, and then Azaan and Biani asked the groups to share these perspectives with the whole workshop. In the exercise, participants were allowed to shift positions — literally and figuratively — as they learned more about the particular issue presented.
Azaan is hopeful that next year’s PRISM leadership will continue the symposium. “This was a really great event,” he said. “I think this type of thing is very important with students leading conversations and educating their peers and faculty.”