This winter, the Avenues upper grades students took part in the fourth annual Awareness Day, a day when students and faculty engage in conversations and learn about issues related to social justice. Student leaders of the Committee for Social Justice—Didlane Pierre, Oren Schweitzer, and Anna Block—were instrumental in planning and organizing this student-planned and student-run event. In fact, Awareness Day began when two students from Avenues’ first graduating class identified a need for the community to come together to discuss important issues of privilege and justice.
This year, the day’s topic was “in solidarity.” Students and faculty attended workshops that built critical awareness around a host of topics such as colorism, climate change, solitary confinement, the war on drugs, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and other hot-button issues. This allowed students to act in solidarity with groups of people with whom they otherwise might not interact.
The day began with musical performances from Chacho Schartz and a group of his student musicians who played songs connected thematically to the day’s topic. This was followed by the keynote speaker—Boris Santos, community organizer and member of New York’s City Council for District 34—who spoke about community activism and the importance of getting involved in local politics. In addition to attending workshops, students had the opportunity to view and discuss the film Selma. The day closed with a final gathering in which members of the community shared personal highlights and discoveries they’d made; based on these comments, it was clear the day’s events and discussions had made a powerful impact on both students and faculty alike.