Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Who I Am By Sophie L.

From December 1st to 3rd, Haley J., Kudzai N., Gavin W., Hiawatha D., and I attended Student Diversity Leadership Conference in downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This conference provided us with the opportunity to discuss diversity issues in the United States and also provided us with a place where we could study and come to fully understand each other and how issues concerning race, class, and gender affect us all. This conference was one of the most valuable memories I’ve had and it widened my perspective and understanding not only of the United States, but also of the world...
Five of the OES students and five of the OES faculty arrived in Philadelphia with consternation of our heavy work we left behind at the school. We all worked on our assignments on the flight in the early hours of morning to our ambitious destination. We heard and learned from previous attendees that our schedule at the conference would keep us busy from 7 A.M. to 10:30 P.M., so that we would absolutely have no time to work on our assignments. However, I decided to stop worrying about the school since I was sent to the city of ‘brotherly love and sisterly affection’ to change OES community. Now I felt as if I were an activist.

Indeed, I was an activist, but I never could find people with whom I could talk to about how evil this world is because I was too inhibited to express my true opinions to the o world. When 1,500 students gathered in the ballroom with soaring excitement to express their outrage about injustice in this world, Rodney, the co-founder of the conference, holding a cup of Grande Starbucks coffee, walked silently into the room. As he walked in, everyone including the conference faculty, spontaneously sat down in an enormous circle. The moment of silence was so powerful and amazed me that I kept looking around the room for a while. I never realized how momentous the power of silence could be. This pen-drop activity provided me an opportunity to share who I was and what I believe with every single person in the ballroom. It was more like telepathy.

When the attendees stood up with each statement, all the seated students looked up to and respected whoever the standing students were. It was fine to be a freshman. It was fine to be an Asian. It was fine to be a Hindu. It was fine to be a gay. It was fine to be a female. It was fine to be from high-income class. It was fine to be seated. It was fine not to be entirely honest during the activity. It was also fine to be entirely honest during the activity. No matter which statement one responded to, it was completely acceptable because all the attendees came to the conference to be accepted. Although one used to judge and generalize others based on their “classes,” the silence now taught him that he was sitting down and looking up to others who were standing, without talking: respecting them without judging.

*     *     *

Teachers, friends, neighbors and cousins both in Korea and here in the United States often gossip about me. They all expected that I came from a high-income class because I often traveled. They all thought I was a girl who appeared feminine on the outside, but was more boyish on the inside because I hung out with boys as well as girls. They all supposed that I was a college student because I turned 18, although I was still a sophomore in high school. I always lacked the courage to stand up straight, but walked with my head down and was easily angered. However, now I have learned how to educate others about my real self through silence. Now I can be confident about who I was, am, and will be. Even after a “pen-drop” activity, until now, I continued shouting to myself in my mind:
“Junior!”
“Asian!”
“Buddhist!”
“Female!”
“Heterosexual!”
“Middle-income class!”
I, Hee Kyung L., can proudly announce who I am. 

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