What Does A Fair And Just Brooklyn Mean To You?
Hannah Jatsch is is a student at The Packer Collegiate Institute, where she is a member of the Student Leadership Council (pictured above).
This April, The Packer Collegiate Institute, in collaboration with Brooklyn Community Foundation, hosted a gathering for students, adults, and speakers, to discuss and strategize around issues of racial inequity inside and outside of schools. This was an opportunity that I, a member of Packer’s Student Leadership Council, was immediately very excited about. Within our council we have continually sought to make change, both in our school and the wider community. Recently racial injustice has, rightfully, taken the forefront of the majority of our conversations pertaining to equality and restorative justice.
At the panel event, we heard from representatives from IntegrateNYC, S.O.U.L. Sisters Leadership Collective and The Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, who all spoke of their work and initial interest in racial equity work. Personally, I found it really interesting to have the opportunity to hear from new perspectives and people who were interested in the same line of work as I was. It was also intriguing to learn about the different experiences both the speakers and others in the room had, as well as what brought them all to the event that evening.
The goal of the event was to initiate a conversation about race, equity, and community engagement and was by no means unsuccessful. The panelists spoke to us not only of their ideas for how these problems could be improved within the Brooklyn community but also of their own personal experiences with these issues. This aspect of the event was what made the conversations even more meaningful and energetic; we were speaking with people who had faced the hardships we were attempting to mitigate, and we were interacting with those with vast amounts of experience and knowledge about how we could best move forward to make change happen. Bringing faces and people to represent the different causes we were talking about was and continues to be, really important. By doing this we don’t simply view these issues through a lens of data and statistics, but can rather tackle these issues in a more human and empathetic manner.
Later on in the evening, the audience members were asked to reflect on the discussion and answer the question, ‘What does a fair and just Brooklyn mean to you?’ Parents, students, and educators all took part in this activity and responded thoughtfully and passionately. Many people expressed their concerns for “equitable access to resources… housing, employment opportunities… jobs, and food,” as well as their hopes to create more “representation,” and “a place where people of all ethnicities, genders, religious and socio-economic status feel that they can live, work, create and grow.” An emphasis was also made on the role that young people play in this change, with one person writing, “Listening to young people and using privilege, when appropriate, to support their efforts in any way possible.”
This last point was particularly poignant for me, especially as the majority of the work we do in Student Leadership Council is organized and driven by students. We use the experiences that we as young people have, both inside and outside our schools, which is what makes the work we do so important. Moving forward, discussions and spaces like these continue to be a necessity to move toward a more equitable Brooklyn for all. There needs to be an emphasis on communication between young students and adults because through developing mutual respect and discourse, so much more change can happen.