by Gena T and Nicole A, Class of 2020
The fourth annual Brooklyn Friends Community Issues Conference took place on November, 21, 2017. Keynote speaker and Co-founder/Board Chair of Women for Afghan Women, Sunita Viswanath, started off the day saying, “Being with all of you, and having your optimism touch me, is just very meaningful.”
The Community Issues Conference is an event organized annually by the tenth grade, in which they are given the opportunity to select social justice issues that they hold close, or deem important to address. This crucial aspect of the conference generates an enthusiastic attitude towards learning more about the issues, and towards sharing them with fellow peers. The conference is an essential part of the Brooklyn Friends journey as it provides a new perspective on service through building partnerships in the community and engaging in awareness-raising and advocacy. This year, the Class of 2020 offered eighteen sessions, connecting with twenty-seven New York City organizations.
Tenth grade students organizers shared some of the highlights for them this year:
“A highlight was getting to see people who attended our session coming up with questions and realizing the gravity of the situation we were addressing. It was also really cool to see people coming up with ideas as to how to help” – Sage G
“A highlight for me was our speaker saying that she loved our school and she had never seen anything like the conference. I learned that youth have a lot of power from the way the guest speakers treated us as equals and were impressed by us.” – Elsie R
“The highlight of the conference would be the reflection time at the end, as it was really nice to hear people’s responses to our queries. I enjoyed this time because the people who stood up to share were mostly students from different schools, so it was good to know that we had made them feel comfortable.” – Serena G
“The Community Issues Conference was an amazing experience. My favorite part of the day was being able to listen to everything that the Keynote Speakers and individual session speakers were saying, and just being able to see in action all our work.” – Kaley B
“It was very uplifting to see Vlad, a history teacher, actually ask very specific and meaningful questions about how he could support and make personal plans for his students with learning differences. He really cared about their well-being and was very diligent and even took notes.” – Jackson K
“In my first session, the energy from the audience and the speaker made it such an enjoyable conversation. My speaker was so unapologetically herself which was so refreshing.” – Sammi H
“A highlight of the conference was the fact that I not only learned more about specifically what I could do, but I learned this not only through the speakers, but from guests from other schools.” – Finn S
“I learned many important skills, I learned how to reach out to organizations and become a more confident person by speaking with adults that I am coordinating with as well as how to be a more mature person.” – Logan H
“I learned a number of things regarding mental health and the stigma behind it. I was also taught about how it is important to fight the ignorance behind the issue.” – Ethan K
“It was nice to see how many people actually wanted to learn about Immigration rights and how many people were willing to step up and take action. I learned quite a bit from both sessions… all of the speakers had been undocumented for half of their lives and so they could speak from experience about how their stories influenced everyone.” – Sebastian B
“I came to further understand the point of the community issues conference, as I saw the importance of raising awareness and starting the conversation.” – Betsy A
“The Community Issues Conference this year was incredible in many different aspects. All of the issues and ideas the 10th graders were trying to bring to light were shared in a productive manner, and a real sense of awareness was cultivated.” — Anique E
The Community Issues Conference’s annual mission is to demonstrate to students that advocacy is valid, effective, and encouraged in young people. Whether a student decides to take direct action or not, by attending the conference, they receive a new insight on how issues affect members of our communities
Thank you to our guests from 27 community partner organizations, our keynote speakers Sunita Viswanath, co-founder and board chair of Women for Afghan Women and Ravi Ragbir, member of New Sanctuary NYC and immigrant rights activist*, and our attendees, for making this year’s conference a success. Thanks also to the 10th grade student organizers for their hard work and to Natania Kremer for creating the conference at Brooklyn Friends School four years ago as part of the 10th grade Service & Justice course. Special thanks to Noel Quiñones for organizing this wonderful event with the tenth graders this year.
The following are the organizations and speakers that participated: Best Friends Animal Society, Animal Law Committee, 350 NYC, Gender Empowerment Movement, Domestic Violence Project at the Urban Justice Center, One Love Foundation, Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center, Red Umbrella Project, East New York Farms!, Equality for Flatbush Project, East Harlem Preservation, Coalition for the Homeless, The Hunger Project, UNICEF, Ambereen Sleemi (BFS parent) of International Medical Response, New York State Youth Leadership Council, Immigrant Justice Corps, Grand Street Settlement, Muslim Community Network, Education Law Collaborative, Project UROK (Child Mind Institute), National Alliance on Mental Illness, Timothy DuWhite (LGBTQA+ advocate), The Proud Path, Integrate NYC, Make the Road NYC, American Indian Community House.
More coverage on Ravi Ragbir can be found at the links below:
And here are some actions to support Ravi as he is currently detained by ICE:
- Petition: https://action.groundswell-mvmt.org/petitions/we-support-ravi?source=gse
- New Sanctuary will be holding weekly rallies for Ravi every Thursday at 5pm outside the Department of Homeland Security building on 201 Varick Street (at Houston).
- Advocate for Ravi via Twitter #IStandWithRavi: https://twitter.com/
As of January 21, 2018: