School holds open discussion following Capitol siege

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Last Thursday afternoon, the Student Union, Equity and Access Team, Diverse Network of Action, Student Wellness Club, and Black Excellence Club hosted a meeting to facilitate a conversation on the recent attack on the U.S. Capitol with the school community. The event, “Discussion & Dialogue: Debriefing Yesterday’s Events at the Capitol,” focused on the growing threat of white supremacy and violence in the country, and aimed to reflect on democracy, justice, anti-racism, and freedom.

On Wednesday afternoon, supporters of President Donald Trump attacked and breached the Capitol in an effort to interrupt proceedings in the House and Senate where members of Congress were tallying the Electoral College vote. Incited by weeks of the President’s lies about the election he lost being stolen, rioters infiltrated the building, smashing windows,vandalizing offices, and leaving five people dead. The response of law enforcement to the Capitol siege stood in sharp contrast to the violence on display nationwide during numerous responses to demonstrations against racial injustice over the summer. In comparison, Wednesday’s response displayed little interference, even as the mob perpetrated an attack on the heart of American democracy and threatened the lives of elected officials, including Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. . 

These events quickly prompted the school to announce a meeting the following day as well as discussions in a majority of classes.

Coordinator of Student Activities Sarah Loew helped organize the event at the request of student leaders, who facilitated the conversation in order to “come together during this difficult time and share how we have been impacted and how we can be supported at this difficult time.” Mrs. Loew said,  “Providing a safe and healthy space for students to express themselves is crucial. Through addressing these issues together, we can also learn about, understand, and express acceptance of another person’s emotional experience.”

Student Union Vice President Ali Boivab said, “The goal of hosting the community discussion in response to the Capitol Siege by white supremacist insurrectionists was to stand in solidarity with communities of color to whom this country has continually betrayed…We wanted to let our friends of color know that even if the government repeatedly fails to give them the full value of human life, the Townsend community is here for them. The event was student led for that very reason. We wanted to send the message that we are with you.”

Harrisites reacted to the initial news of the events on various social media platforms on Wednesday and Thursday. At the forum, they were able to share their feelings and express what they thought the next steps of the nation should be.

Freshman Sara Tustin said, “The community forum was a beneficial way for both students and educators to express their feelings on the situation, which is more important now than ever. Expressing these feelings, especially in a wide accepting group of people, is one of the best ways to cope with these events. Acknowledging and inviting discussion about it rather than pretending nothing happened was a great suggestion from the school.”

“We definitely need to talk about these topics regularly. The more we guard our youth, the more misinformation can be spread and it is actually preventing us from growing. [The community forum] was beneficial and I was glad to talk about it with peers and upperclassmen alike. Nobody attacked anyone else’s opinion or made them feel invalidated,” said freshman Dabynn Yi.

Junior Jaedyn Clarke said, “I think the community forum was a great outlet for everyone. I think the people who are very passionate about these issues were able to feel a sense of community. The people who are less educated on the history and the real meaning of the matter were informed. I really enjoyed the forum and hope to have more in the future.”

Many members of the THHS faculty were also in attendance at the community forum. History teacher Francis McCaughey said, “I am always so impressed with our students and school community and consider myself lucky to be a part of it. Yes, there is still much work to be done to address the issues that led to Wednesday but I am confident we have the community in place to help do it.”

“I was really encouraged by the number of students and faculty who attended the forum and I felt extremely proud of the courage and integrity displayed by all of the participants. The authenticity of the dialogue was moving and transformative,” said Mrs. Loew. “I am hopeful the members of our community will continue what we started today and begin to dismantle the institutional, systemic, and personal forms of racism that have been disguised and hidden for so long.”

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