EI WEEK 2022 Exploring Bay Area Diversity

by Dylan Lee, G11.

Group members – Dylan Lee G11, Darioush Mostoufi G11, Elena Moslavac G11, Eli Sculley G11 Peter Xu G11, Fiona Hoheit G10, Annika Umeno G10, Liam Belamaric G9, Marcellus Narcisse G9, Erin Welch G9 and Rachel Wood G9. Faculty Advisors -Kelly Leahy-McKeown and Audrey Lee.

Experiential Interdisciplinary Week (better known as EI Week) is a week-long engaged learning process whereby high school students at WSP embark on a deeper “learn by doing” and by reflecting on their experiences. The planning of EI Week starts in winter when high school faculty and students submit proposals on ideas for workshops based on the theme that WSP adopts to explore as a whole school community. This academic year, the school established “togetherness” as the appropriate theme when our school community transitioned back to campus for in-person learning and we could gradually be in spaces together to embrace a new way of life since the pandemic had started. EI Week learning activities can include, but are not limited to, hands-on learning approach, day and overnight trips, field explorations, guest speakers, community service, art, music, performances and so forth.

The proposal I submitted to the faculty was titled, “Exploring Bay Area Diversity ” and the main intention of the proposal is to bring more awareness that will give students a platform to discuss the quality of equity and actual representation of Bay Area communities by looking through the intersectional lens on social issues. 

A group of 11 students and 2 faculty advisors had several planning sessions and discussions to form what we envisioned the week would be like for us to bring the proposal into a reality. In these meetings, our group members began to brainstorm, discuss and disagree, collaborate and combine ideas, lead and follow each other until we arrived at the basic framework of what our group would be doing together for a week. Basically, the piece that stood out for most of us was that it was challenging to visualize or verbalize intersectionality and to be more mindful of the many barriers that face underrepresented communities that exist amongst us. 

Eventually, we shifted our focus to include all types of diversity while promoting and celebrating inclusive environments that strive to make everyone living in the Bay Area feel like we belong here. Our group was clear that we wanted to incorporate community service, explore historical aspects of migration into the Bay Area, deepen our understanding of racial equity and systemic issues, eat good food, celebrate art, music and culture of various communities and spend time capturing our experiences through photography, journaling, poetry, story-telling, painting, drawing, learning, creating and questioning. 

A detailed program of our explorations and activities of the week:

Photos of our EI Week Activities

The biggest take away from this experience is that our group learned that there are pockets of segregation across different counties. There are also the invisible communities who have very little access to healthy food, proper shelter, education, health care, childcare, employment issues and equal wages, as well as immigrant rights. Our exploration clearly brings out how segregated the entire Bay Area is. That segregation impacts economic outcomes:  a racial segregation that leads to economic segregation. Housing crisis in the Bay Area impacts all of us in its own way as well. The most humbling moment of this entire experience was when we met with Erika Huggins for an entire afternoon when she led our group through the streets of West Oakland and shared her biography and history with the Black Panther Party. With deep wisdom and courage, she conveyed that we try to talk about these things in a broad framework of humanity. How do we treat our fellow human beings?

Othering certainly is a mechanism by which we are trying to segregate people: ‘us’ versus ‘them.’ So, it’s important that our generation look at this moment through the lens of ‘othering and belonging,’ and see that if we have a more integrated community, we are actually lifting up everybody. We are lifting up the entire society. We are all living together.

If people look at our EI Week work through that lens while looking into specifics of all the different issues related to systemic racism and disadvantage, I think it would make a lot of sense.

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