Kudos to the Westridge English Department and the students who planned and participated in the 10th Annual Voices in Literature Conference, "Lift Every Voice and Sing." Held on Wednesday, the conference featured student works in various mediums including song, dance, written word, and various visual art media.
The conference is connected to the interdisciplinary Upper School English "Perspectives in Literature" class, taught by English Department Chair Molly Yurchak this year. The elective focuses on a new topic annually; this year's is "Listening to Black Women" in which students look at literature, art, and music from Black American women. Regarding the theme of the conference, Yurchak said, "We wanted something that was very celebratory and joyous ... While the literature read in class has heavy themes … it is equally as important to explore the themes of strength, optimism, and hope—something often found in music.”
The conference kicked off with keynote speaker Clara Williams, grandmother of Ileia G. '22, who spoke about her experience as a member of The Edwin Hawkins Singers—a group recently featured in the Oscar-winning documentary "Summer of Soul" and well known for the song “Oh Happy Day.” She joined the Westridge Glee Club in song, after which attendees were invited to browse the conference gallery on Foreman Courtyard as well as conference sessions.
Sessions featured presentations on themes of structural racism, self-image, and body image resulting in projects such as "Hegemonic Dominance in Furniture & Media: The Impact of the White Gaze Upon Dreams and Self Image" by Maris B. '23 and "The Cycle of Shame" by Maya L.-S. '22. In the art pieces, a handful of students drew inspiration from Toni Morrison’s novel “The Bluest Eye.” Bella Hart ’23 created “Salvaged By Motherly Love”—paper pictures with fake carnations glued to a female mannequin bust—to represent “the immense influence and damage done to women of color by the dominant white culture of the 20th century.”
“This is an incredibly challenging assignment,” said Yurchak, comparing it to college level work due to the sophisticated level of thinking and work the project requires. In addition to the actual assignment, students gained experience in running an academic conference—planning how projects should be grouped together, who to moderate sessions, and spaces on campus to hold the sessions. See more photos from the conference here!