Real talk: Calvin Terrell’s enlightening workshop

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Real talk: Calvin Terrell’s enlightening workshop

Arooba Lodhi

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On Oct. 24 and 25, the annual Names Assembly was held in the auditorium as all Niles North freshmen were invited to join the ongoing anti-bullying and racial acceptance conversation. This year, Calvin Terrell, a captivating speaker, educator, and community builder, was invited back to NN to facilitate the discussion regarding diversity and discriminatory awareness within our school walls.

Beginning the Cowards to Warriors assembly by asking for respect and acceptance in the space, Terrell led the students in repeating the traditional Mayan poem In Lak’Ech to emphasize humankind’s unity and interconnection to each other. The following activity consisted of identifying different traits that distinguish cowards, or perpetrators of bullying from warriors, or upstanders seeking to change the language and mentality of antagonizers. Focused primarily on urging students to introspectively reflect on their actions and inactions, real life scenarios of a discriminatory and brutal culture embedded within our education institutions were given.

Caroline Benjamin, Director of Student Activities, described the experience as, “A presentation that changed the way I looked at my actions and how I interacted with other people. I’ve engaged in this workshop multiple times, and I always find something new, a new idea or realization, to take away each time.”

Expanding the discussion to comment on our current societal conditions, Terrell brought up issues of racial privilege and cultural desensitization that manifest in the media and are perpetuated by our intentional and unintentional behaviors. Delivering emotionally charged personal stories regarding acts of inhumane violence committed against his friends, Terrell highlighted how white privilege is not just being entitled to certain opportunities; rather, it it is being exempt from consideration. Additionally, with the sports frenzy that is an integral part of American culture, the problem of appropriating the image of First Nations as logos or mascots was addressed as many students were forced to realize that cultural disrespect is embedded deep in societal beliefs and must be dismantled.

Although the assembly revolved around dense topics and contained heavy information, it proved beneficial to the students in attendance as perceptions of their input in our community were challenged and left them working towards bettering themselves.

“Calvin Terrell was such a unique and amazing speaker. He opened my eyes to some of the prejudices embedded in our society,” Sadia Ahmed, junior, said.

Igniting passion and interest within the audience, the discussion did not end seeing as the goal was to address discriminatory practices that exist in our everyday interactions and continue this vital conversation beyond our school to change the norms influencing communal beliefs.

“Let us reflect on how we can be thankful, loving, generous, and community minded when it’s just ‘another day.’  I think if we save our grace for when the unthinkable happens, we are conditioning ourselves and the next generation to be a reactive community that is motivated by the worse to mobilize.  We have the power to shift this paradigm and be motivated daily to proactively mobilize our communities to do amazing acts,” Terell said.

Featured image credits to Amherst Middle School