April 26

CHSN Teachers Reflect on their experiences at the VCS Undoing Racism Workshop

Thanks to grants from the PTSA and the school, Clarkstown North has been fortunate enough to be able to send 15 staff members to the Undoing Racism Workshop this year.

The support for attending this workshop is clear evidence of the commitment on the part of the school to ensure that we all remain aware of the infinite ways in which oppression is embedded into our daily interactions and institutions.  It is only through this continued effort that we can begin to address systematic racism and the inequities that it manifests.

 

I consider myself to be open-minded and empathetic, but this workshop challenged me in unexpected ways.  It allowed me to truly consider the perspective of individuals from all races.  It also taught me a lot about the history of our country and the systems that have been put into place that have added to the oppression of minorities in our society.  As a teacher, I feel more confident in discussing issues surrounding race in the classroom.
-Ms. Dunn, Art Teacher

 

It allowed me to reflect on my power as a teacher and the importance of each student that walks into my room.  As educators we are told we can change the life of one child and that is enough. This conference helps us realize the magnitude of education and one life is not enough. We should strive for more.  
– Mrs. Macias, Social Studies Teacher

 

What struck me about the Undoing Racism workshop was its message of unity. It argued that the construct of “whiteness,” NOT the people who identify as white, is what stops us from knowing ourselves to be one big human family.

 It identified the cost of “whiteness” in such a way that I became motivated to dismantle the institutions that have kept racism in place over many years. I feel newly empowered by the realization that I am a gate-keeper, and that institutions cannot oppress anyone if gate-keepers own their power to change those institutions.
-Mrs. Phalen, English Teacher

 

Hearing the profound disturbing experiences from people of color during the conference made racism “real” for me and touched my heart whereas before it was easy to intellectualize racism-now I can “feel” the knowing of this tragedy and have been transformed into a conscious rejector of racism.
-Cathy Smith, Math Teacher
 
The personal stories were very moving and some were heart-breaking.
Keri Nitto, School Guidance Counselor
 
‘We must recognize our role in perpetuating white privilege in order to undo racism. This workshop was full of information & exercises presented honestly & sensitively in order to bring this concept home.  I’m sold & will utilize what I’ve learned to continue to bring this idea to the fore in my daily work.’
Sue Gold, Student Assisntance Counselor
March 22

Sesame Street supports diversity and inclusion with the introduction of Julia, a muppet with Autism

Last week, 60 minutes reported on Sesame Streets newest muppet, Julia.

Excerpts:

“Sesame Street” has always based its characters and content on extensive research.  They regularly bring in educators and child psychologists. In the case of Julia, they also worked with autism organizations to decide which characteristics she should have and how best to normalize autism for all children.

It’s tricky because autism is not one thing, because it is different for every single person who has autism. There is an expression that goes, “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism,” says writer Christine Ferraro.

And of course every Muppet needs a puppeteer.  But not every puppeteer has the connection Stacey Gordon does to the role. Gordon is the mother of a son with autism.

Stacey Gordon: Had my son’s friends been exposed to his behaviors through something that they had seen on TV before they experienced them in the classroom, they might not have been frightened. They might not have been worried when he cried. They would have known that he plays in a different way and that that’s OK.

March 14

Biracial twins are a beautiful embodiment to challenge the labeling of individuals based on the color of their skin

In this blog post by Elisabeth Parker, beautiful photos of bi-racial twins are highlighted.

From the article:

The odds of having a set of biracial twins with different skin colors is around one in 350 to one in 400, and the odds that any pair of twins will have different skin colors is one in 500. In the U.S. — as of 2013 — twins accounted for around three out of 100 births. [AUTHOR’S NOTE: As pointed out by many readers, “race” itself is an artificial construct that has no basis in science. While visual markers may tell us something about our ancestry, the genes that determine our appearance are just .01 percent of our total genetic makeup.]

Back in 2015, the internet was all abuzz over Lucy and Maria Aylmer, a lovely pair of biracial twins from across the pond in the U.K. They say no one believes they’re sisters, and we can certainly see why. Their dad Vince is white and their mom Donna is black. But instead of looking like a blend of both races — as many mixed race children do — Lucy has fair skin and cinnamon hair while Maria has a café au lait complexion and abundant black curls.

February 25

Exploring Our Mixed Race Identity through Ceramics and Photography

“We need to set aside the obvious assumptions of visual identity that is merely skin deep,” says writer and ceramics artist Heidi McKenzie in the February issue of Ceramics Monthly.

These assumptions do not enable us to appreciate the complexity of our true and complete selves.

Click here to read her complete article,  Paradox: Identity and Belonging where she highlights the work of several mixed race ceramic artists.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of additional note on the topic is photographer Martin Schoeller. In 2013 his series The Changing Face of America was featured in National Geographic.  This series of photographs explores the visual power of mixed race individuals and highlights a comparison of self-identification with Census check boxes.

February 9

IB Art year 2 Student Basil Bennett- Levy reflects on gender transitions and identity as their concentration

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I started thinking about my concentration, I wanted to explore the concept of transition.  The transitions between genders that transgender young people experience are thought of as ugly and something that should not be seen.

Often, transgender celebrities will go into a period of hiding after they announce their new identity while they undergo whatever medical changes they need to look how they want, and then reenter society looking completely different. This process keeps the transitional period out of the public eye, and makes people with ambiguous gender presentation seem unnatural. I believe that this is not the best was to handle transgender people in the public eye, since it makes encounters between cisgender and transgender people more uncomfortable and prevents understanding. I decided to paint transgender young people to try to document this stage in their lives, and my show is a celebration of these in-between people.

I decided to ask people to send me pictures they took of themselves for me to paint. I asked them to choose a picture that they felt confident in, and to explain all the reasons why they felt confident in that picture. In addition, I asked everyone for a list of the ways they identify themselves. I found their answers surprising, because people interpreted the prompt differently.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My goal for this list was to help humanize the people in my paintings, so that my audience could get to know them better and imagine them as complex people rather than just strangers.

To further emphasize this spectrum (and transition) concept, I decided to arrange the pieces (in my exhibit) on a scale from feminine expression to masculine expression.

 

 

 

February 5

“Catch These Hands” AP Language Project – by Teena Thomas

Inspired by Angelica Dass, creator of Humanae, and in hope to spread togetherness and promote acceptance of diversity at Clarkstown High School North, I took on this photographic human hand mosaic.
The motivation to start such a project originated from Ms. Phalen’s AP Language class during our “Race & Otherness” unit as we explored & presented various texts found on social media, etc. in order to construct our own claims on the issues.

-my claim-

Color is a concept so familiar, simple & pure. We, as humans, believe we KNOW what color is and means. We hold STRONG OPINIONS and preconceived notions about color.
With “color”, there is no difference of which is better than the other; they are simply just colors. But when it comes to “skin color”, there is unfortunately a whole level of labeling, a sense of prejudice of one race/group over another.
But by reframing or redefining the term “color”, we can make the comfortable, uncomfortable.Through the use of defamiliarization, or the “the artistic technique of presenting to audiences common things in an unfamiliar or strange way in order to enhance perception of the familiar”, we can deconstruct this mentality of superiority. We can take color apart, and reconstruct the wheel with a new perspective, a new thought.

I chose hands because hands hold a second level, deeper meaning, symbolizing unity in itself. “The holding of hands” per say is unifying, accepting. So by using hands as a marker for each individual makes sense.

Along with the hands, I decided to have the caption be a word of identification, not a PANTONE color name. So each person along with a photograph chose a word they felt they identified as, i.e., musician, athlete, cheery, etc.

Artistic Process:
There were several moments I wasn’t quite sure what to do. So much ambition and excitement to tackle a project for a girl who had little to no experience on photoshop and also did not think through the details at the start. I just jumped right in! And it’s funny because I usually don’t do that; I like to plan out meticulously for anything I do to. It was a change in approach but it was well worth it.

During an Art Honors Meeting, with your help, I was able to collect the names of kids who were interested in participating.
With just a stool, a white sheet of paper, and my iPhone camera, I shot 67 hands of students & staff over the course of two days after school.
That weekend I began editing. 7 straight hours in my room without a break I cranked at it on Saturday. Then Sunday morning back at it, I spent the rest of my day editing until I got through 45 hands, all set & ready to go.
My editing consisted of taking a pixel of color from the center of the middle knuckle (as opposed to the center of the nose as Dass had done) and filling the background. I then selected a font, font size, and rectangular box height & width for the font to go on. Attached is a time lapse video of an example, Mr. Covert as “leader”.

 

I want to thank you, Mrs. Diamond for providing support and the resources to get my ideas a reality and Denise, the woman at the main office who out of genuine interest persuaded almost 30 students to stop & be a part of my project. Again thank you! This turned out so much more than I ever imagined. 🙂