Upper School Student Voices hosted their first assembly of the year last week entitled “Black at Westridge.” The assembly was a testimonial-based presentation that gave students a chance to hear from Black and African American students, alumnae, faculty, and staff about what it is like to be Black at Westridge. “We wanted to deliver this assembly through the eyes of the Black community and all of its diverse perspectives so that people really understand what it’s like to be Black on a private school campus,” said Student Voices Co-Head Olivia Q. '22. “Our goal was to create transparency when it comes to the connection between the new Instagram account Black at Westridge, the BLM movement, and institutionalized racism in independent schools.”
The assembly took its name from the BlackatWestridge Instagram account that was created by an anonymous current or past community member over the summer as part of a nationwide social media movement to provide a forum for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) to share their experiences of institutionalized racism in private schools.
“As Student Voices, it’s our goal to amplify and uplift marginalized voices,” said Student Voices co-head Danielle D. ’21. “My goal for every assembly is to start conversations. I hope that makes people more aware of the diversity of experiences at Westridge and starts conversations around that.”
In addition to sharing testimonies, Student Voices presented selections from a community letter written to the school from the creators of BlackatWestridge demanding change to policies relating to school culture, curriculum, admissions, and more.
“I think the issue is not about intention, but about communication between students, teachers, and administration and the willingness of members of our community to step up and speak out,” said Olivia. “The creators of Black at Westridge created a platform for BIPOC members to speak in a time of great uncertainty and fear. They had the bravery to act on their word in a moment when it mattered the most. I hope the student body will learn from this bravery and invoke it within themselves and in their daily lives.”
In addition to the Upper School assembly, Student Voices hosted slightly modified lunchtime assemblies for both the Lower and Middle School, created an all-school survey about students' experiences with racism on campus, and will help facilitate continued conversations among Upper School students in advisory meetings.