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Talk, Donate, and Act: Five Student-Led Initiatives Fighting Racial Inequality

Photo of the June 3rd protests by Jay Nasser ‘21

History teacher Ted Oxholm announced today in an assembly that the Upper School History department is preparing a new, mandatory African American studies course that will make its debut in the fall of 2021. 

The news comes as a result of the GFS Commitment to Anti Racism Petition created by eight juniors and seniors: Dhmyni Samuels ‘21, Ryan Lewis ‘21, India Valdivia ‘21, Evan Weiss ‘21, Sophie Borgenicht ‘20, Tsega Afessa ‘20, Jillian Yum ‘20, and Gabby Schwartz ‘20. By Friday morning, the petition garnered 664 alumni, teacher, student, and parent signatures, along with 237 anonymous comments expressing support and encouragement of the students’ initiative. 

“Nothing opens doors and minds like a great education,” reads one note. “It’s how we are able to step through and move forward together as individuals to form a healthier society.”

The petition organizers responded to today’s news of curricular changes with gratitude and a call to further action. 

“We feel encouraged by this [step], but also know that a lot more action needs to be taken and our fight is not over. We hope the school takes initiative on its own in the future,” say the petition initiators. In addition to the call for educational changes, many other GFS Upper Schoolers and student organizations have reached out this past week to express solidarity and provide resources for contributing in the fight against systemic racism, and toward a more actively anti-racist school community. 

Below, Earthquake has highlighted five student-led initiatives that continue to serve as spaces for conversation, donation opportunities, and courses of action for all friends of GFS.

Talk: 

BSU Open Meetings

Though the school year is nearly over, Earthquake recognizes the achievements of the Black Student Union in creating a thoughtful, welcoming space for all members of the community to converse about ongoing police brutality in light of the death of George Floyd. On Friday afternoon, this week and last, students and teachers gathered on Google Meet to hear prolific poems, personal testimonies, and messages of solidarity. 

Donate:

  1. Watch “Grease”

Poster by Ana Branas ‘20

Tune in to the virtual, annual, (automatic, systematic, and hydromatic) senior musical, “Grease,” tonight at 8:45 pm. In lieu of selling tickets, the cast encourages anyone watching to make a contribution to an organization of their choice in support of and in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. Click the link in your student email to watch the performance.

Check out this statement from the senior class:

“We, the Cast/Creative Team of the musical, think that it would be foolish to continue the show as planned without acknowledging the injustices coming to light in our society right now. In an act of solidarity, we would like to offer a link to many resources where you can learn, take action, and/or make donations. Though completely optional, it would mean a lot to this group if you could take action and/or donate on our behalf, especially if you plan on attending the premiere.” 

  1. Student Club Matching Event

The Education Justice, Human Rights, South Asian Student Alliance, and Lobbying clubs report that they are teaming up to match your donations to the American Civil Liberties Union and Black Lives Matter Philly.

“These organizations are taking action to unravel the injustices of our legal system and promote civil equality both nationally and locally. It’s up to you what organization you choose, but send proof of your donation to Coby Keren (ckeren20@germantownfriends.org),” says an email from the Education Justice and Human Rights clubs. 

They will be matching up to $1180 in donations. 

Act:

  1. Email Script to Elected Officials

Take a look at this statement from four underclassmen — Clare Meyer ‘22, Martina Kiewek ‘22, Allyson Katz ‘22, and Sam Zimmer ‘23:

“We put together an email script outlining specific reforms that need to be undertaken by the Philadelphia Police Department in order to ensure police accountability and end policies that allow officers to act on discriminatory biases (such as Stop and Frisk). 

This will take a literal minute – all you have to do is copy and paste the script, write in your name, and send it out to the official of your choice, with cmeyer22@germantownfriends.org in the bcc. It’s that easy. 

On the top script, we listed the emails of city officials we thought it made sense to send to — Mayor Kenney, Police Commissioner Outlaw, and City Council President Clarke. We also compiled a list of city council reps by district, so you can easily find the contact info for your rep.

Now is the time to put pressure on officials to act. Stand up and stand with the black community in pushing for reforms that will protect the life and dignity of black Philadelphians.”

  1. Resources for Support and Education

Here is a list of resources compiled by the GFS Assembly Committee:

Support Black-Owned Businesses & Civic Organizations

Anti-Racism Action Resources