O.L.A.S. Book Discussions
By: Bailey Witter
O.L.A.S. (the Organization of Latin American Students) has recently begun a series of discussions focused on anti-racist books. Ms. Ruiz, Mr. Fernandez, Mr. Padera, and Ms. Lim brought this idea together to read books such as This Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell, the current read, which explains the systemic inequities in our society and how to speak up to racists in our lives. When asked what the goal of the discussions was, Mr. Padera responded: “It really was a brainchild of Ms. Ruiz, but we wanted to put together a group of action behind equity. Instead of having a sit-in-a-circle-and-make-ourselves-feel-better-about-equity, we wanted a stronger purpose and actionable steps. Hence, the book and activities. It is student-centered and student-focused.” It is pretty clear what the discussions are focused on, but, as Mr. Padera explains, the goal of these discussions is to get students actively involved with promoting anti-racist action and education, not just being against racism. Mr. Fernandez says, "Ultimately, we want these courageous conversations to be had in heterogeneous groups and create a culture at Wheaton North where all can feel safe having courageous conversations about race. Before we get to that point, a safe space is essential to the development of students' own ideas, identity, and position on difficult topics." Current member Victoria Tarpeh comments, “I want to hear what other people have to say about racism and share my own experiences and learn how to be a better activist.” It’s clear that the discussion members are ready to take action.
Recent events, such as the Black Lives Matter movement, have inspired people to take action against racism, but many are having trouble deciding where to start. This discussion, as part of the larger O.L.A.S. organization, is the perfect opportunity to become educated on experiences you may not face, to share your own experiences, and to learn to use your voice to make a change.