Social Justice Week workshops provide interactive student forums


Matthew McGehee

U-High students learn about Social Justice through a Monopoly themed workshop.

Chloe Alexander, Assistant Editor

With topics ranging from skin bleaching in Asia to diet culture, all under a theme of UNITY, the student- and faculty-led Social Justice Week workshops were held April 20. 

Senior Anika Gupta, Social Justice Week co-president, said that the re-creation of the Unity Council is to build a stronger bond among the school’s affinity groups. Anika said that the Unity Board brings together different groups and talk about how their clubs are going, how they can work together and what they can do in the future that will benefit the school. 

Many of the workshops were new this year, such as skin bleaching in Asia and the fetishization of Asian people. Some explored other subjects like gender biases in sports and STEM or diet culture. Aside from very serious workshops, Mugs on a Mission was more interactive and fun, which is still valuable in Anika’s mind.

Nana Gyang-Akoto, a sophomore, hosted the workshop on skin bleaching in Asia. She said she hosted a workshop because she wanted to educate the Lab community on an issue prevalent in media and harmful to people’s health.

“It would better educate students on the different struggles that cultures in and outside of America are experiencing. A lot of the time, the struggle for darker skinned Asians to be recognized is swept under the rug,” Nana said. “I wanted students to learn about the dangerous risks that come with skin bleaching especially because of the mercury content. I wanted students to learn about how colorism can look across Asia.” 

Mulan Wu, a ninth grader, attended two workshops about implicit bias in STEM and feeding into fetishization. 

“In the first workshop, we discussed how in higher education, women and minorities are continuously pushed out implicitly and how it’s still going on in present day,” Mulan said. “In the second workshop, we discussed how Asian people are seen as oriental and different, thus ‘desirable’ to white men. I learned that along with fetishizing East Asian women as polite, short and respectful, southeast Asian women are seen as manly, both stemming from racism.”

Sophomore Jack Colyer went to the workshop discussing gender bias in sports and implicit bias in STEM. He said that although the two workshops were informative, the gender bias in sports workshop did a better job at presenting the information and making the workshop interesting. 

“I think the first one did a good job at pointing out the awareness, the second one had you do a Harvard implicit bias test,” Jack said. “But the first one showed images of players from different sports and you could very easily tell. Everyone knew the men’s basketball players, but very little people knew the women’s basketball players and vice versa with gymnastics.” 

Jeremiah Lesniak, a sophomore, went to the feeling connected workshop that was focused on moments of deep rapport with others. 

“It was a really reflective workshop where we discussed times where we felt that we belonged and did some creative writing as well to reflect on those times,” Jeremiah said. “We were also read a story about a girl who was adopted as a foster child and was very apprehensive of her new family at first but is sort of brought into the family and starts to belong.” 

The wide variety of Social Justice Week workshops created a forum for students to discuss and shined a light on topics that tend to be overshadowed.