Demitrius Schwartz, ’18
The BHSEC Teach In was a truly outstanding success. The sense of passion and excitement was palpable in the air as I walked through the doors. The impact of the Teach In came as a surprise for me, and I had an amazing experience.
At first I was extremely apprehensive about participating in my session, since most of the people in the room were familiar, and some uninterested. Despite several former assumptions and fears, none of which were realized, the conversation was devoid of ridicule, bitter argument, and stubbornness. In my first session, a spirited debate over the place of white rappers in music took place, one where people both shared as well as explained their grievances about pop figures like Iggy Azalea. After this debate came to a close, the group delved into a discussion about the origins of rap, the legitimacy of awards shows, and other aspects of the pop culture that we had all grown to love. I left feeling a new understanding of my own opinions as well as others, a feeling of community was already becoming tangible in the faces of students and faculty who had just experienced their first session.
My day was broken up by a powerful keynote speech which left a great impact on my attitude about activism as a whole. Growing up in the same neighborhood as the speaker, I have watched it become ravaged by gang violence, as well as a recent trend, gentrification. These factors have not only defined who I am but also my social as well as racial identity. The speech helped me realize that, as a human, it is my responsibility to care for and improve my community, to reach out and help those who are oppressed. This message has stayed with me, since I don’t think there has been a more clear and urgent message that has ever been given to me.
The second session played out similarly to the first: again, I had a very thought provoking conversation, this time about cultural appropriation. As a whole, BHSEC has an extremely diverse community. The act of cultural appropriation has become common in music, art, film, and even on a more local level where cultural appropriation shows even in how people converse with each other. As a Latino growing up in downtown Brooklyn, I have seen both sides of the argument where the style of dress of people from the neighborhood is boxed and shipped to the nearest Urban Outfitters. My second session gave me a new perspective on the subject. While the barriers of race may provide pride or a sense of entitlement to some, they must be broken down to truly understand culture at an individual level. For a school as diverse as BHSEC, it seems almost ironic that barriers are created by factors other than race to establish a social hierarchy. With this insight I truly believe that BHSEC can become that much more progressive and forward thinking both inside and outside of the classroom.
The conversation I had with others in my session truly proved to me the worth and necessity of the BHSEC Teach In. While it may not have been a life-changing experience for everyone, the Teach In reminded me why I chose BHSEC to spend the next 4 years of my life. Although it may be too early to say, the Teach In has changed BHSEC for the better.