Reflections on Unity Day 2021

My Experience as a Remote Student on Unity Day

By Tait Tavolcacci, ’23

Experiencing Unity Day remotely was a very different experience for me, but not in the way I thought it would be. I was more focused. I’ll start at the beginning. I was pessimistic; wondering how I could be a part of Unity Day when I was at home and have been since March 2020. The day was designed to be shorter for us, to minimize screen time, so we were asked to watch our chosen movie before the discussion. I watched The Pursuit of Happyness with my mother, who had seen it before. I was surprised by the candid depictions of homelessness on the streets of San Francisco. The facilitators in our group were very nice and I felt more comfortable sharing my thoughts and opinions than I did at last year’s Unity Day. However, the greatest impact of Unity Day for me was the Keynote speaker, Mr. Lawrence Alexander. He helped me with words. People of color require the right words when they’re faced with racism, but a fifteen-year-old hardly knows what to say.

I appear white. Many of the people that I have called friends, who seem to forget what my mother looks like and that I am not adopted, sometimes say questionable or hurtful things in front of me. Sometimes I even wonder whether it is worth beginning a conversation about these issues at all. Mr. Alexander strengthened my resolve to make people see the whole of who I am. Being fully remote proved an advantage this Unity Day; since I was at home, I wasn’t distracted, which made the experience all the more meaningful for me.

 

 

My Reflection on Unity Day

 By Claire Hill, ‘22

This year on Unity Day I took part as an “in-person” participant on campus. Obviously, Unity Day this year was much different than the ones I have participated in previously; however I think that the format of the day was effective in spurring conversations and sharing insights and ideas. I watched the Netflix series When They See Us about the story of the Central Park Five, which was a story I was familiar with but didn’t know much about. After watching the series and talking with my group, I feel lucky that I was able to participate in such an open and meaningful discussion. I definitely learned a lot and benefitted from hearing other people’s insights and experiences.

Something different about this year’s Unity Day that I think was beneficial was being with the same group throughout the entire day. In previous years it has felt a bit rushed at times to get from one seminar to the next, and I think being in the same group the entire day eliminates this issue. This format helps to create a more comfortable environment since you’re in the same room with the same people all day. My experience this Unity Day was definitely different than in previous years, but I feel like I had a meaningful time, and I’m grateful I was able to experience it in person.

 

 

My Experience as a Discussion Leader

By Mason Howell, ‘21

I facilitated a discussion at last year’s Unity Day, and this year was certainly different. We picked the movie [Just Mercy] a while ago and spent the Leadership Lab working through the questions, activities, and what we wanted the students to take away from the experience. Our discussion was good. I wanted to just present questions and get everyone involved. I was very happy with how my group discussion went.

A highlight from my group was the discussion of the death penalty and the moral choices facing a criminal defense lawyer.  We went around the room for these questions, and hearing everyone’s voice was great. To me, the criminal justice system is such an important topic because it underlies so many other issues.

[The criminal justice system] is a complicated beast. We think we do a good job of administering justice, and having some faith in our system is important — but seeing how badly our justice system can go wrong is critical. A personal highlight was when one of the students shared her personal experience that related to the movie. Someone from my background might not have experienced what she described the same way, so hearing her experience was very impactful for me.

 

 

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