By Cali Morrison Carss & Sammy Bovitz
One of the Beacon United Unions’ demands from the sit-in came to reality Thursday when an assembly was called to discuss racism and diversity, the main issue at hand from Monday’s sit-in. The administration led assembly took note of teachers’ determination to work with students through the issues at hand. While the outline of plans was more general than many students were expecting, there was a clear motivation to right the wrongs made by the administration and to move forward as a community. Students expressed varying expectations and hopes for the assembly before the assembly for freshmen and seniors took place at 10:30. Some were unsure of whether the assembly would be led by students or the administration. Many were expecting the student leaders of the sit in to take charge and lead the assembly, which was quickly turned on its head when all of the speakers were part of the staff. Sophomore Maddie Hager said she would prefer a student led assembly, saying “they would just handle it better because they’re the whole reason we had the sit in.” However, she, along with others, believed the administration should be there in support and collaboration with the student leaders.
The assembly began at 10:35, after a brief struggle to quiet half of Beacon’s student body. “This week was a lesson for everybody,” Principal Lacey said as she began the assembly. She expressed the awareness of the faculty as a whole and on their behalf closed her opening statement by saying that “We want to work with all of you.” She then handed off the mic to five faculty members expressing their perspective. The next faculty member to speak was Ms. Yang. She first discussed her relationship with her students and their own approach, then shifted gears to discuss her own experience growing up as an Asian girl in a conservative white community. Of her experience she said “I adopted white culture. I adopted white language.” She closed by standing with the students of color at Beacon, saying “If you are one of my bold, beautiful Beacon students of color, I am proud of you.” Ms. Erdene Green was next to speak. She recited a spoken word titled “RACISM.” It was an empowering and moving thing to witness. The words used represented the darkness of racism and the light of people trying to correct it. Her speech was said by some to be the overarching highlight of the assembly, or even that it was the most powerful. The next to speak was Ms. Heller, a college counselor at Beacon. She began by providing a brief apology on behalf of the college counselor office, but mostly spoke to hoping for a better future for the college office to provide more of a safe space. Some were not satisfied by this, though. Julian Capodanno, a freshman at Beacon, said that he didn’t like the apology, explaining that “It seemed not sincere, and they kind of went around saying… we’re not all like that.” Other students felt they were trying to distance themselves from the issue at hand. The final teacher to speak, Ms. Sam, was new to Beacon, and mostly spoke on what she believed a safe space should look like at Beacon, saying “When we get to know each other, generalizations and stereotypes are distasteful to us. We are all uniquely different. We want to celebrate your beautiful differences.”
The assembly closed promptly at 11:00, and lunch proceeded as normal. There were mixed feelings on the assembly overall after it concluded. Gabby Garcia, a freshman, said that “It was inspiring and empowering, but a lot of the kids weren’t listening because of how the speeches were written. I don’t think they had such a big impact because they weren’t students they were coming from the teachers.” Others outright said they’d prefer a student-led assembly, while some said the assembly should have been longer. When asked whether the administration met her expectations for what the assembly should have been, freshman Bria Johnson said this; “I really felt like it was – the protest as a whole was very empowering and everything. I really wanted to see a change and I feel like the staff really internalized it and are trying to make a change. I do feel like it could have been more about what they are going to do instead of just saying ‘Oh, we hear you guys.’” This sentiment was shared by many of the students interviewed. Students feel like the assembly was too general and want a specific plan to be laid out by the staff instead of just reassurance that teachers want to work with the student body. Either way, the Beacon United Unions had one of their demands filled Thursday. It is the first domino to fall in the aftermath of Monday’s sit-in, and time will tell what demands will be filled next, when, and possibly most importantly to the student body: how.