Every Spring semester, the English Department invites students, faculty, staff, and Westridge families to the Voices in Literature and Culture Conference. The theme for 2016 was “Documentary and Memoir.” Student ranging from grades 4 – 12 presented critical essays, photographic projects, paintings, creative writing pieces, video projects, power point presentations, and poster boards expressing their wonderful, creative ideas about how and why we document our stories and memories.
Presentation are done concurrently on different parts of campus and are broken up into themes for audience members to select from.
Some of the 2016 themes included: The Perspectives of Memory, Reminiscing and Reflecting, The Change Witching, and Documentary Through a New Lens. VIEW THE PROGRAM.
On the right, we are featuring a piece titled “The Pledge” by Tess S. ’17 that she wrote as a junior for the theme “Documentation Through Testimony.” Here, Tess reflects on her 5th experience reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and what it means to her, another classmate, and how its meaning has changed throughout her life.
Written for the theme: Documentation Through Testimony
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America” How many times have I repeated this sentence. In elementary school, it was part of the weekly routine. At every assembly the principle would lead the school in the pledge and all 450 of us would faithfully repeat it. It was just another activity of the day, a norm that everyone followed. I never had a second thought about repeating the pledge of allegiances until my fifth grade teacher told my class very brief story. The story could not have been more than 3 minutes, but it changed the world around me. It was about a fifth grade boy who refused to repeat the pledge of allegiance because the statement “liberty and justice for all” did not ring true for everyone in the United States. Growing up in a liberal home in a liberal neighborhood as a privileged white girl I did not experience much, if any, injustice. In Silverlake certain ideals were just a given. You should care about the environment, violence is bad, and the “golden rule” you should treat all people they way you wish to be treated regardless of race, sexuality, or gender. In my family, it was quite normal for me as a child to hear discussions about problems in our government, economy, and society. However, all these thoughts were those of parents or authority figures. It was after those 3 short minutes in the fifth grade that I finally experienced a raise of conscious. As I continued to think about the other boy I began to recognize hints of what he was trying to say. I saw traces of injustices, and while I did not fully understand the extent of injustice and lack of liberty, I desperately wanted to. My eyes had finally been open to a world outside of my small community and my mind had finally been exposed to ideas that opposed the adults in my life. I remember at the next assembly there were maybe 5 of us who decided to not say the pledge of allegiance. The next assembly there was maybe 15. This number continued to grow until the entire 5th grade would respectfully stay silent during the pledge. As a little fifth grader I may not have fully been able to comprehend what exactly I was protesting, but for the first time in my life I realized I could go against the grain and stand for something bigger than myself. The world no longer consisted of just my parent’s views. It was a revelation that I could actually stand for something and change it. Since that time I have come to understand that simply saying “liberty and justice for all” does not make it so, but because we say it, we must make it so.