Unity Council addresses social justice issues in Summer Series

In+their+first+Summer+Series+forum%2C+Unity+Council+representatives+focused+on+the+origins+of+the+Black+Lives+Matter+Movement+and+why+%22All+Lives+Matter%22+is+an+inappropriate+response.

Courtesy of Unity Council

In their first Summer Series forum, Unity Council representatives focused on the origins of the Black Lives Matter Movement and why "All Lives Matter" is an inappropriate response.

After six midnight calls and 50 hours of preparing presentation scripts, Unity Council co-chairs Lauren Aguilar and Natalie Brown finished hosting their fourth forum of the Summer Series.

With an average attendance of about 60 people at each forum, Unity Council representatives addressed issues relating to “All Lives Matter,” performative wokeness, white fragility and systemic racism. The meetings consisted of presentations from Unity Council board members and interactive simulations in breakout groups.

Courtesy of Unity Council

According to Unity Council representative Carolyn DePinho, George Floyd’s murder, the Black Lives Matter movement and a letter from the Black Alumni Community created a sense of urgency in the forums.

“During the summer, these issues were so timely,” DePinho said. “People felt connected to the school community and the world around them.”

The co-chairs aimed to educate students, prevent misinformation and brainstorm ways for people to turn their emotions into activism. A key component of the series was their focus on directly confronting sensitive topics.

“All the issues were ‘in your face,’ complex issues, especially for white allies,” DePinho said. “I applaud people who came and were willing to learn.”

To understand what my friends of color go through opened my eyes to little things that make a big difference.”

— Sydney Hammerman

Brown and Aguilar assigned themes to each event to encourage discussion.

“General discussions can lead to vagueness and dissociation from the issue,” Aguilar said. “No one wants to sit on a summer afternoon and be pressured to talk.”

For senior Sydney Hammerman, a major benefit of the series was learning about the experiences of others. 

“Whenever you speak with someone different, you’re going to get a new perspective,” she said. “I have a lot of comfort being white, so to understand what my friends of color go through opened my eyes to little things that make a big difference.”

Courtesy of Unity Council

Representatives of the Jewish Affinity Group and Womxn Helping Empower Each Other led the third forum, “Shattering White Fragility.” According to Hammerman, the summer series was made possible by the leaders’ dedication to issues of diversity and inclusion. 

“The current seniors and juniors are very serious about affinity groups, and they want to make sure we can have these conversations,” she said.

For DePinho, the series was a success because it “celebrated differences” and provided a safe space for discussion. 

“I’ve found that some people don’t fully respect these situations or take them seriously, but sometimes there are people who do listen and educate themselves with the resources they’re provided,” senior Charlotte Curtin said. 

All four summer series meetings were recorded and are available on the Unity Council website.

Additional reporting by Fareen Dhuka and Laney Chang