On February 25th, Sequoyah’s high school celebrated its second annual Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Day, hosted and co-organized by the Chameleon Coalition and the school’s Equity Alliance Stewardship. With its mission of Celebrating Culture and Confronting Biases: Reclaiming Our Inner and Outer Chameleon, the day brought together a series of primarily student-led workshops for students and faculty to engage in.
To start the morning, seniors Aaliyah Balangue, Andrea Bizarro, and Remali De Silva, founders of the Chameleon Coalition, set the tone for the morning with music, a mindfulness meditation, and a brief history on the importance of the day to the high school community. Sequoyah’s DEI day was inspired by the Sequoyah community coming together in response to  the Westboro Baptist Church’s protests in 2019 against Rose Queen Louise Siskel, the first openly bisexual Rose Queen in the parade’s history. The school responded to the hate with a message of promoting love. The community came together in the morning spreading messages of love to those driving, students played the cello, and there was poster making. See past article for more information on the event here.

Over the course of the day, students led 12 workshops on topics ranging from police brutality (History of the police – police reform – abolishing police), to spaces specifically for members of the BIPOC community, such as Love and rage – Identity with Race and Your Relationship with Anger.

See below for workshops offered, highlights from different workshops, and interviews with facilitators.

Anti-Racist Curriculum 

Ask a Lawyer: Legal Rights of Students

Celebration of Culture 

The Guitar of Melanie Faye 

Healing: An Emphasis on Mental Health and Intergenerational Trauma 

History of the Police – Police reform – Abolishing Police 

If Heroes Were Black… and Female: A Look at the Work of Four African American and Afro-Colombian Visual Artists  

Intersectional Feminism is for Everyone 

LA 2028: Olympics or NOlympics? 

Love and rage – Identity with Race and Your Relationship with Anger 

Rockin’ to Death!: Examining A Black Proto-Punk Album 

Understanding and Dismantling Systems of Oppression 

Workshop: Understanding and Dismantling Systems of Oppression

Hosted by: Claire Donahue, Student (12th grader) and Chelsea Confalone, Faculty

Workshop description: In this workshop about understanding oppression, students learned about the five main layers of oppression. These included ideological, structural/institutional, organizational, interpersonal, and internalized. Aspects of each of these layers can be found throughout society, and are constantly perpetuated. In this workshop, students were also asked to discuss ways that they might have power over these forms of oppression, as well as starting points for dismantling oppression. Donahue participated in some anti-oppression workshops over the summer, and wanted to share what she had learned. She observed that “justice, equity, and anti-oppression work can be really difficult,” and was hoping “that by starting the conversation along with other workshop leaders we can all learn together.”

Workshop: Intersectional Feminism is for Everyone

Hosted by: Aaliyah Balangue, Student (12th grader) and Arden Thomas, Faculty

Workshop description: This workshop focused on creating a safe space to talk about identity. The facilitators started off the session by introducing Kimberlé Crenshaw, a lawyer, advocate, and professor, who developed the term intersectionality. This describes how aspects of one’s identity like race, gender, and class intersect with each other. Next, members of this workshop participated in rounds of council with the prompt: turn your camera on if on a daily basis you are aware or are made aware of your… The prompts that followed included race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, age, ability, and socio-economic status. It was powerful seeing who turned their camera on regularly, versus who didn’t at all. Those with their cameras on then had the opportunity to share their stories. 

Workshop: Rockin’ to Death!: Examining A Black Proto-Punk Album

Hosted by: Ben Ede, Faculty

Workshop description: This workshop taught students and teachers alike about punk music and what it stands for, highlighting the idea that the punk subculture is built around self-actualization. It also explored how much of the popular music in the US stemmed from African American music during slavery; it also considered the ways in which our culture categorizes certain types of music as “white” or “black”. Often, “black” music made its way to England where it was repackaged and sent back to the US where it became popular among white people. One example of this was the Beatles. Finally, students watched the documentary A Band Called Death – Before There Was Punk. The film is about a black punk band from the 1970s that was ahead of its time, and their revolutionary music.

Workshop: The Guitar of Melanie Faye 

Hosted by: Ben Ede, Faculty

Workshop description: Students in this workshop got to meet Hip Hop/RnB guitar artist Melanie Faye! Melanie shared about her experiences with playing the guitar and taught students some skills!

High school students posing with guitar player Melanie Faye.

Workshop: LA 2028: Olympics or NOlympics? 

Hosted by: Kristine Nakada, Faculty

Workshop description: Is it possible to support the Black Lives Matter movement and the Olympics? This workshop will take a brief look at the history of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, exploring how athlete activists have used their platforms to fight for racial justice, all while increased policing and displacement has affected communities of color in the host cities. Participants will learn about the 2028 Olympics slated to take place in our own backyard and explore its potential role in various social movements.

Workshop lead Kristine Nakada asking participants their thoughts on the images on the screen.

Workshop: Healing: An Emphasis on Mental Health and Intergenerational Trauma

Hosted by: Adela Villalba, Student (12th grader)

Workshop description: Within this workshop, participants talked about intergenerational trauma and the way it shows itself in BIPOC communities. Intergenerational trauma is the term for the trauma that can be inflicted on a generation, affecting the survivors’ emotional and psychological well-being (e.g. PTSD), and that can then be passed down  to future generations . Workshop hosts encouraged participants to look at the concept of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome. This concept, worked on by Dr. Joy Degruy, is similar to but has key differences from PTSD.

12th grader Adela Villalba hosts her workshop on Mental Health and Intergenerational Trauma.

Worksop: History of the police, police reform, and abolishing police.

Hosted by: Andrea Bizarro, Student (12th grader), and Omari Averette-Phillips, Faculty

Workshop description: In this workshop, students were taught about the connections between the police and racism, going back to the beginnings of the police in the United States. The group discussed police brutality, noting that people of color are more often targeted by these terrible attacks for minor infractions; participants also explored what the acquittals of those who perpetrate these horrible acts mean to the world. We also spoke about the three things that people say need to be done–police reform, defunding the police, or abolishing it altogether–and the pros and cons of each option.

Workshop: Anti-Racist Curriculum

Hosted by: Andrea Bizarro, Student (12th grader)

Workshop description: Workshop participants learned about a proposed Anti-Racist Curriculum created by Andrea in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. Students discussed what makes a healthy learning environment, provided feedback on the curriculum, and found ways to incorporate more lessons and activities into it. 

12th grader Andrea Bizarro hosts the data behind her proposed Anri-Racist curriculum.

To end the day, Remali De Silva performed her piece [title] to commemorate the Black lives lost to police brutality. A short movie with names of those whose lives were taken played in the back.

See below for Remali’s piece:

And she said it best 

But like dust I rise. 

knowing that we are not just names on a list 

Of tears cried

Hearts broken 

And mothers left without their sons.

We are wholeness and beauty 

Chameleons through and through.

And it’s never what we think

It’s plain in the eyes when I look at me and you

Like dust I rise.

From the doubts and assumptions 

From the lies and aversions

Like glistening glittering 

Beautiful black stars. 

We’re bright and I remember your names on this day and this month and for always 

You’ve paved the way.

For us to fight another day 

We remember you now

And keep your name on our lips 

Forgiving means to me to never forget 

All the names on these three slides 

Never close to the oppression or the pain

The lies and many years and submersion one Black individual after the next 

Wanting to erase us from the face of this earth 

But I know deep in my heart 

That we aren’t less. 

When you turn your back there’s someone chasing. 

Looking in front there’s someone running away. 

The knowing gnawing feeling that your life isn’t yours.

It’s someone’s game that others play.

And while I cry for souls and miss those I never knew 

I know a day will come when love and kindness isn’t the trending remark

It’ll be something forever ingrained in our hearts.

But in this memorial we see your names and acknowledge the pain. 

We love and miss you and 

Wish you 

Were with us again 

See below for video:

Memorial Video