Sophia Kahn ’25, Jojo Torres ’25, Susana Lowell ’25, Sophia Kahn ’25, Sophia Sampaio ’26, and Taleena Gonneea ’26 attended the annual AISNE Middle School Students of Color Conference
on Saturday, February 6, a full-day event for students in Grades 5-8 designed to provide a majority space for BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color) students, those who identify with the global majority. To prepare for the virtual event participants were invited to upload headshots and share a little about themselves, which helped facilitate connection before gathering online on Saturday. The day was jam-packed with workshops, affinity groups, speakers, games, music, dance, and fellowship.
Each student chose two workshops from a list of 18 which included Building Community through Allyship, Race and Environmental Justice, Representation and Identity Politics, and Celebrating the Contributions of LGBTQ+ People of Color In American Culture, and many more (click the conference link above to see the full schedule of offerings). Jojo Torres, who also attended the live event in 7th-grade, chose the Race and Environmental Justice workshop in which they discussed environmental hazards in communities of color and a lack of access to information, corporate responsibility, government oversight, and the power of community and grassroots organizing. “We broke into small groups to discuss the case study together and figure things out ourselves without being told,” said Torres. “It was cool.” When asked what she’d take away from the workshop she said, “Little things can make a huge difference. Get involved, be informed, be mindful of the environment, and don’t pollute.”
The workshops anchored the morning and afternoon agendas with breaks and lunch interspersed with affinity group gatherings, open-mic performances, trivia and dance, and a keynote address by Dr. Michael (Mykee) Fowlin
. Fowlin is a stage performer with a Ph.D. in Psychology who tries to create an atmosphere of inclusion so that his audience can “awake to the beauty within one’s self and the beauty within others; the celebration of our differences, and the acceptance of our shared experiences.” He does this through story-telling, adopting personas, and funny voices to challenge assumptions and stereotypes.
“We talked about how our race affected us in our own lives and situations that have put us at an advantage or disadvantage,” said first-time attendee Sophia Kahn. “We were able to talk about the future and what we hope could happen to make the world better and less biased.” Torres believes that our community would benefit from more opportunities to share and listen to each other’s experiences, to give insight into who we are. “What I learned was not to assume at first glance,” says Torres. “Listen and see where people are coming from because you don’t know what is happening in someone else’s life.”