To kick off the month of May, Edison’s National Honor Society organization put together a weeklong social justice forum. Taking place on Zoom from three to four p.m. these forums featured panelists and were open to any student to join.
“It was an idea that the NHS officers’ brainstormed during a meeting,” said NHS advisor, Ms. Petroutsos. “The five topics that were featured in the forum were actually the five most popular topics voted on by the NHS members.”
Petroutsos cites NHS Secretary, Pauline Francez Gordula, as the first one to pitch the idea. As a member of the Asian American community, Gordula felt it was important to hold space for a discussion centered around Asian American injustice but also discussion about other injustices. The resulting topics were Gender Inequality, What Is Privilege?, Muslim Hate, Black Lives Matter Movement, and Stop Asian Hate. An aspect of the forums that stood out was its inclusivity.
“Faculty voice is important when students are leading an initiative in the building. They [the NHS members] had the idea that they wanted to reach people in the community,” said Ms. Petroutsos.
In this forum, community was an important emphasis. NHS Vice-President Gurjot Singh felt that school is a crucial part in a student’s development and maturity, making it the perfect place to have these discussions. NHS Co-President Jannatul Mim voiced similar sentiments with a view of additions.
“We are supposed to help teach each other, we are supposed to stick together,” said Mim, “Whatever is happening in the past, we work on it and we fix our past and hope that history doesn’t repeat itself.”
It’s safe to say that this “togetherness” did take place in the forums. Although freshman Angelica Allonce didn’t not have high hopes going into the forums, her tone quickly changed after attending the Gender Inequality forum (the first of the series) as an audience member. She points out the BLM forum as one of her favorite moments.
“My entire life when I’m talking about BLM or just anything that has to do with the liberation of black people, it’s always ‘You’re the angry Black girl,’ ‘You’re so unrealistic,’ ‘You’re never going to reach Black liberation,” said Allonce. “Just to hear [support for BLM] in the forums… made me very comfortable in the Edison community.”
Based on the response and turnout of the event, it’s safe to say that other students felt similar. The NHS cabinet members, returning and graduating, are already thinking about how they could continue and improve upon these forums in the following years. Gordula, in particular, plans on re-applying as an officer next year with organizing socio-political related events on the top of her list.
“As we become more increasingly aware of the issues in our society, it is time for NHS to go beyond its academic sphere and implement its four pillars in promoting social justice,” said Gordula.
Her words leave the student body with hope for a new age at Edison: a time of awareness and community support in terms of pressing social justice issues. Yet, the NHS cabinet showed a complex level of understanding. Singh, Mim, and Gordula all empathize with the feeling of discomfort surrounding these topics. However, they urge students to push through that.
“If you’re afraid, then someone else is going to be afraid,” said Singh. “I would say be the brave person, even if you are just going to sit down and listen to us. Take that step and if you do it, you might inspire someone else to do it.”
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