“What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say?” – Audre Lorde
Twenty-nine students tackled the topic of “The Power of Voice” at the 7th Annual Voices in Literature & Culture Conference on Wednesday. Middle and Upper School students presented essays, dramatic monologues, visual art, short films, original songs, and slam poetry exploring what it means to have a voice, and how you choose to use it.
In four panels, students examined the power of voice as it related to themselves, their families, and their community. Topics explored in the panels were:
- The experience of black women in America in the “Perspectives” sessions based on this year’s interdisciplinary Upper School English elective course “Slave Narrative to Lemonade―Listening to the Voices of Black Women”
- What happens when voices go unheard in “Listening to the Lost Voices” panel, and
- Personal experiences that have shaped the student's voices in “Silencing vs. Empowering: Personal Experiences of Voice.”
In response to a significant increase in art submissions this year, for the first time the conference featured an art gallery, featuring paintings, photography, movies, and more, many of which addressed issues at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Click here for the full list of participants and their presentation topics.
"We were blown away by the quality of this year’s student presentations and by the enthusiastic turn-out by an appreciative audience. The girls passionately synthesized rigorous research and careful thought into professional, university level academic work," said Molly Yurchak, English teacher and conference organizer. "I was particularly excited by the work done by my students in this year’s Perspectives in Literature class. They gamely tackled provocative topics and evaluated them with sophisticated literary theory and original insights."
The conference kicked off with a keynote speech by human rights attorney, activist, and nonprofit leader Nicole Lee. Lee has been involved in social justice fights across the globe, including the Black Lives Matter movement, the protests in Ferguson Missouri and Standing Rock, and in Haiti after the earthquake. She shared her own journey to finding her voice, how she continually works to keep it, and how we can all use our voices for social justice.
“Whether you’re an artist or activist, when you truly find your voice you will likely come to a decision point, and far too many people, when they come to that point say, ‘I’m going to choose comfort.’ But when you choose comfort, often you aren’t choosing courage. And when you don’t choose courage, you’re not actually choosing yourself,” said Lee.
Congratulations to all the exceptional panelists, presenters, and performers!