Apr 27, 2018


Students Lead Second Annual Stay Woke Day

Earlier this week, a team of 8th Grade students organized Greene Street Friends’ Second Annual Stay Woke Day, working with two Faculty Advisors. The day is a student-run diversity day to talk about race, specifically within the Middle School experience. This year, three area schools joined the day’s programming- Abington Friends School, St. Peter’s School, and Westtown School. 

All students gathered in the Lunchroom for registration and then spread out around campus to eat lunch and join optional Affinity Groups. (Prior to Stay Woke Day, Greene Street Friends students already participated in Affinity Groups from 5th Grade on. These groups, differentiated by self-identified racial groupings, gather students together by race to talk about issues with one another. Sometimes students use technology to share their reflections confidentially with other Affinity Groups to spark conversation and dialogue.)

Mai Spann-Wilson, a local singer and songwriter presented a keynote presentation about his own experience with racism in America. Using two original music videos, “They Say” and “Where I Came From”, Mai challenged students to look for the imagery in each video and civil rights symbolism often found in hip hop music. “They Say” (featuring Greene Street Friends Alumna Taylor ’17) tells the story of Spann-Wilson’s family’s journey North after escaping slave owners and a relative’s murder in Kentucky. The video also references parts of American History often overlooked, including the Trail of Tears and Japanese internment camps during World War II. One student commented, “I like the video because it has people who look like me. I like to find musicians who look like me.”

The day also featured four workshops, designed and facilitated by student leaders. “Music Culture- Appropriation vs. Appreciation” examined how artists like Katy Perry and Michael Jackson use other cultures in their own music. After watching music videos, students were asked whether the artist was appropriating or appreciating each culture’s music. “Middle School Experiences & Educational Opportunities with Race” asked participants to reflect on moments they or someone they knew experienced racism at their school. Students were asked to write down six words to summarize their experiences on note cards, writing things like, “I don’t feel safe at school”, “Safe, believable, trusted, accepted”, “Teachers pick me out because of race”, “People make assumptions based on race”, “I’m not affected because I’m White”, and “Color Accepting, Not Color Blind.”

“A Collision of Race, Sports, and the Media” asked students to examine intersecting racial, gender, sexual, and other personal identities. Participants were asked if they played any sports and, if so, what they noticed. Some students noticed that most of the people who attended, coached, and played at their baseball games were White. Others noticed that the gymnasts at their gyms were mostly girls. The last workshop, “Recognizing Race and Microaggressions”, asked students to reflect on the first time they thought about their races. Students spoke about their own experiences with microaggressions, including hearing, “What are you?”

The day concluded with a presentation from Kellie Graves, a local high school sophomore, presenting “Identifying Intersectionality at the Crossroad of Mental Health and Rap Music.” Graves discussed how rappers use imagery of suicide and self-harm to convey underlying experiences with racism and oppression. Students were challenged to think about how hip hop artists use their platforms to spark broader conversations and awareness around mental health.

We at Greene Street Friends School are so very appreciative of the students’ desire to lift up Diversity, Equity and Inclusion here at school, and in the world at large. Thank you for encouraging us all.