Day of Respect: Knowledge is Power

By: Melissa Wang

Community Agenecies
The Day of Respect, which took place on Thursday, Jan. 15, was divided into three 65 minutes sessions from 9:40 a.m. to 1:50 p.m. One session was facilitated by community agencies that offered lessons about numerous real-world issues and the people working to solve them. The students had the possibility of choosing one class between the 15 different choices that the departments proposed. For example, the Peace Corps held a class called “Make a difference: The toughest job you will ever love!” where volunteers who had just finished their service talked about their experience and what it means to live as a volunteer. The HIV Alliance offered a class where students had the possibility of discovering everything that’s necessary to know about this disease and its transmission, prevention, and progression. Further, HIV-Positive speakers spoke about their lives before, during and after the diagnosis. Community agencies helped to make this day even more interesting and meaningful by sensitizing students and giving them the possibility to learn about and reflect today’s relevant topics.
// Pita Cappellini

Hot Topics
At the 2015 Day of Respect, students participated in Hot Topics, Community Agencies, and Community Building workshops. Hot Topics workshops dealt with controversial and relevant issues in the community. Students and organizations led the workshops with keynote speeches and interactive activities. Hot Topics workshops discussed catcalling, queer activism, the media, stereotyping, Tibetan oppression, poverty, racism, and more.
The purpose of the Hot Topics workshops was to educate students on social justice issues and how to be more comfortable talking about them. Because it was the Martin Luther King Day of Respect, student leaders encouraged their peers to speak out and see opposing viewpoints through their presentations. The workshops got into to the larger issues in the community and world, dealing with them head-on. Whether it was through satire, discussion, videos, or activities, the workshops all accomplished the same thing: encouraging students to stand up for what they believe in and celebrate people of all backgrounds.
Student leaders and the administration hope to see students continuing the work of remaining respectful and paying attention to social justice issues today.
// Araxi Best

Community Building
The purpose of the Day of Respect’s Community Building sessions was to foster a better sense of community among students on the South Eugene campus. Students were able to enter any classroom in the 100, 200, and 300 halls to participate in the Community Building segment, where teachers led students in fun bonding activities. Students learned group members names and found out about their interests and their backgrounds. Students were also given the opportunity to talk about their own experiences with discrimination and oppression, and they brainstormed solutions to these issues in a partner activity. Through these exercises, students were able to meet new people, find shared interests and other commonalities with each other, and explore themes of social justice in the process. To wrap up the session, students wrote a personal message on a purple heart on what they would like South Eugene High School to look like in the future.
// Miyako Iwata

Doctor’s Note
Unlike the last Day of Respect, this year students were required to obtain a doctor’s or parent’s note to get excused from school. The purpose behind this new requirement was to ensure that parents understood that the Day of Respect was a mandatory and essential school event to raise social awareness. On the last Day of Respect, there was an attendance problem: A disproportionate number of students had excused absences. Principal Stephanie Cannon said, “Anytime there is no strict supervision, we have attendance problems.” She went on to say that the required note was to deter students from trying to “blow it [Day of Respect] off.”
// Melissa Wang

Assembly
To start off a day full of respect and learning about the world around us, South students crowded into the large gym for an assembly. Nearly the entire student body attended, and the bleachers on the balcony, as well as the bleachers down on the basketball court were packed with people.
Freshman Amaya Blackhorn began the assembly with the singing of the national anthem in Navaho. Following her performance were several speakers, from community members to South students. Queer Straight Alliance member Andoeni Verdugo read Leelah Alcorn’s (a transgender girl) suicide note. Senior Marielena McWhirter followed Verdugo’s reading, speaking about equality and treating people with respect.
Next, Dr. Johnny Lake gave a brief speech that was merely a preview to the powerful words he shared with students later in the day during his Keynote speech at the Shedd.
“Education is supposed to lead you out of ignorance,” Lake told the crowd. He discussed the importance of the Day of Respect and warned students to not “let [respect] drop off” in the coming months.
Seniors Daisy Burge and Jacob Hoertkorn spoke for the Feminist Student Union, bringing a comedic aspect to the assembly. They satirized feminism in Hollywood, sarcastically claiming that civil rights are “trendy,” drawing hearty laughter from the crowd.
Five students from the Latino Student Union came to the mic to share stories of their experiences of coming to the United States and being Latino in the U.S. The assembly closed with a step routine by the Black Student Union.
// Sara Tsai

Shedd March & Speech
As the Day of Respect neared its end, South students gathered outside the gymnasium for one last spirited rally. A police escort led the way from South to the Shedd Institute for the Arts, halting traffic for the huge parade of South students and teachers. South Fork instructor Gregory Dunkin inspired some singing, declaring that South students were marching for their right to get an education. Despite the lack of organized songs this year, the march was anything but subdued. Many students held signs and banners as they walked.
A two-man marching band greeted South alumni as they settled in the Shedd theater, followed by a round of song led by South English teacher Alexa Lachman. Onyx Huch introduced the guest speaker, esteemed professor and education activist Johnny Lake. He began his speech by jumping off the stage, joining the front row of students on the ground.
“Because the real education happens right here, in this connection,” he said, gesturing at the students in front of him. He roamed the front row, asking questions of students and reminding them that they had a responsibility to better the world with their education. The pen is mightier than the sword, he argued, and power comes not from the barrel of a gun, but from the barrel of a pen.
Ultimately, the Day of Respect was a day dedicated to finding ways of using our knowledge to improve the world for everyone, regardless of gender, race, disability, religion, culture, or class.
“How many races are there?” Lake asked. “Just one, that’s right. The human race.”
// Raina Kamrat

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