On Wednesday the 26th of April, NWS had its third Day of Learning (DOL) of the year. Instead of usual classes, students led workshops about issues of social justice. The day opened with meetings of affinity spaces before transitioning to workshops focused on specific issues. There were 20 different workshops offered on this Day of Learning across a wide range of topics and students were able to attend two, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The day was wrapped up with performances of West African music and dance as well as Latin American folk music. Days of Learning are organized by NWS students with assistance from faculty. In this DOL, efforts were made to help younger students to be more active in planning and facilitating. After witnessing their leadership I am excited to see where these students take the future of NWS and its DOLs!
My morning workshop was Impact of Redlining on Generational Wealth and Homeowning. The workshop was led by our assistant upper school director Cecilia Tung, Julinka C. ‘24, Juniper H. ‘24, and Bella B. ‘26. The workshop involved reading summaries of different people affected by or involved in housing discrimination in the 1960s. After the facts of how the foundations of redlining were laid out, the leaders explained the ways that these inequalities have continued to perpetuate themselves after housing discrimination was made illegal. This was done in part through the accumulation of generational wealth in white families through an increase in property value that Black homeowners have not seen. The workshop ended with a list of organizations working to combat redlining and housing inequality in the United States. These organizations are House Our Neighbors, Seattle Housing Authority, and Prosperity Now. Understanding the United States’ history of redlining is vital to understanding current housing disparities and finding meaningful solutions.
The second workshop I attended was Ableism. It was led by Malachi M. ‘23 and Zach T. ‘25. It began with an activity where students reflected on what aspects of ability (financial, physical, developmental, cognitive) they thought about the most and which they thought about the least. We then got into small groups to discuss segments of a quote from the activist Mia Mingus about the intersectional roots and effects of ableism. We ended the workshop by going around the room and sharing out what we had discussed. Ableism is an axis of oppression that many non-disabled people don’t know much about and is often not covered in school curriculums so the opportunity to reflect, learn, and share was invaluable.
Days of Learning are great opportunities to learn about issues that may not have been taught in usual classes. It is essential to attend these days and be engaged throughout. A lack of attendance reflects a disrespect for the hard work of the students and faculty who organized this day, and more importantly a disregard for the serious topics discussed. While DOLs can be uncomfortable, especially for white people, this discomfort is purposeful and important. Don’t flinch away from the discomfort. Instead, ask yourself why you feel that way and who benefits from avoidance of it. POC, especially at a PWI like NWS, feel uncomfortable dealing with the racism ingrained in our society and the white people within it every single day. If you are white, I challenge you to sit with any discomfort you feel during future days of learning. Showing up and actively participating in these days is just the starting point. Days of Learning are designed for self-reflection, but also for looking outward. I hope that the workshops and conversations people had throughout this last DOL helped them to better understand the positionality and realities of both themselves and others. Now that you are armed with this knowledge it is important to not let it exist purely internally. All the self-reflection and memorization of facts is meaningless if nothing is done with it. Adjusting behavior in response to self-reflection is when the effectiveness of this day will truly be put to the test. Now that you have learned these facts and realities in your workshops, ask yourself how you can work to create meaningful change against these systems of oppression. This is the part where self-reflection and changing personal behavior are only a small part of the puzzle. These steps should not be discredited and are often important prerequisites, but meaningful systemic change necessitates working in community with others, especially those directly affected by the issue that is being fought against.