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WORD winter TERM RE-CAP 2021

Anti-Racist Mini Courses

By Janessa Vargas '22, OMA Proctor

This January, the Academy began utilizing two blocks each Wednesday to teach anti-racist mini-courses. These courses, facilitated mostly by students with collaboration from some faculty, mark a pivotal step in making our community a more educated and culturally conscious one.

While all mini-courses have an emphasis on race, they range in subject matter: teaching about redlining to immigration to the role of race in athletics at Exeter. These student-led workshops engage participants through various activities such as watching videos or television with BIPOC representation, worksheets, and group discussion.

For the past two weeks, I facilitated a mini-course on Queer History with Senai Robinson ‘21. I have learned that facilitation is quite different than being a participant in the courses; you must ensure that your participants are engaged with the material and that people are truly learning. However, as a facilitator, I found myself met with information that I hadn’t known before— even as someone meant to guide my students.

Though all courses were designed in slightly different manners, I can offer some perspective on how the course ran week-by-week and what students were meant to learn. For the first week, my course focused on making sure that everyone was on the same foot in terms of subject-specific language and community norms. For the subsequent week, it was more of a lecture-style class with lots of historical information.

By the end of the 3-week course, I felt that my students had left with a baseline understanding of queer history, if not an expansion of their previous knowledge. If not, they at least started the process of breaking down misconceptions and I can genuinely say that we all had a wonderful time.

Book Review: Homegoing

By Ki Odums '23, OMA Proctor

Homegoing, written by Yaa Gyasi, is a historical fiction novel that follows the lineage of two half-sisters from West Africa throughout the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. Effia and Esi’s family tree is split in two when Esi is captured and sold into slavery. The novel chronicles the lives of the descendants of the sisters.

Each chapter is written from the perspective of someone from the next generation of Effia’s and Esi’s bloodline. The book offers a juxtaposition of chattel slavery, Jim Crow laws, and discrimination versus colonialization and its remnants.

This book, while dense and requiring your full attention, paints two very distinct narratives but even then, Gyasi draws very clear parallels. The story really resonated with me. From the complicated familial relations to the uncomfortable realities many black folks have faced, it felt as if I was reading my own family’s history. Gyasi does an amazing job holding a mirror up to two different experiences and connecting the dots.

Agents of Change

By Hadley Camilus, Associate Dean of Multicultural Affairs

This is an article about change, and how people change over time when they aren't seeing change. And how we sometimes we fail to recognize that things have changed.

In the early 2000s when I was in college, and even in the early years of my career, diversity was the catch-all term for matters related to the under-representation of people of color on predominantly white campuses. Sexuality, though salient for students and some adults, was a tertiary topic in terms of programming on my campus. Gender identity wasn’t discussed in the way that it is today--at least, not on my campus

Language was different too. The term “queer”, for example, was only used by people within the LGBT community on my college campus. I left out the letter “Q” because it wasn’t in there back then. As a matter of fact, queer was understood as a pejorative term outside of the queer community. The terms equity and inclusion weren’t part of the lexicon either. BIPOC wasn’t even an embryo—along with many other terms that now seem to be ubiquitous. In essence, when people said diversity, they usually meant race. And on my campus, it often felt like diversity and race were euphemisms for Black or Latino. We have certainly come a long way since then, but I haven't lost sight of where we were not too long ago.

That’s the world in which I went to college. Things have changed, rightfully. During those days, we talked about race in the classroom without pause, even when the conversations didn’t feel right. We didn't spend time building trust in the classroom. And I was okay with that, at first, because I had the bandwidth for those discussions. I figured, people who didn’t know about my lived experiences should hear about them, and I should use the opportunity to learn about theirs. At some point, the totality of my life experiences with race and racism caught up to me in the midst of my college experience.

With each year that passed, I became more selective about where to invest my energy. It took years for me to understand why the change was occurring. For instance, I started going hard on the racial front in college. In high school, I wasn't part of a Black Student Union (BSU) despite being in the minority at school. Within weeks of enrolling at Clark, however, I was running for a position on the BSU executive board. I think it was the result of seeing far fewer Black students on campus than I did in high school. I also had an awakening, of sorts, in high school that manifested in college.

On one hand, I felt the need to build community and solidary with other Black students, but I also wanted to be in a community where all students dignified each other, so I tried to build bridges too. Along with joining the BSU, I picked up a job at the General Store on campus, which was frequented by all students. I also wrote political editorials for the school newspaper, The Scarlet, which was read widely. In addition, I accepted an invitation from the Dean of Students to participate on a committee that served as a sounding board for the student affairs team. We were a diverse group of students, but I was the only Black representative. I didn't have the language for it back then; however, there were many moments where I felt the 'burden of representation' in that space, and others.

Trying to be a bridge-builder was costly. I remember having lunch in the caf one afternoon when a peer in my dorm grabbed a seat next to me. His name was Rob. He was a White male. I had no reason to decline his desire to sit with me. As I was eating, he asked me why Black people like bananas, which was interesting because I wasn't eating a banana--nor had I ever, because I actually didn't like bananas. They made me nauseous. I asked Rob why he felt compelled to ask me that. He, simply, offered that it came to mind, so he thought he'd ask... On a separate occasion, another White student asked me why there is a Black Student Union, and no White Student Union (even though many of them existed by default); 80 percent of the campus was White. These sort of interactions weren't rare. Eventually I grew tired of the questions, and debating with people about what I chose to do in order to survive on campus. I found that the questions and comments didn't usually come from a place of curiosity. By junior year, my circle consisted mostly of students of color who were on my wavelength.

If someone came into my life at that point in time, they could have opined, and even concluded, that I was some sort of radical. Not only was I writing in the school newspaper about race and racism regularly instead of national politics, I only communicated with two or three white students outside of class (on a campus that had thousands of them). Around that time, I also wrote a poem titled, "Black Power" (among others) that I performed in front of a few hundred students at the university. People must have been like, "what's with that dude?" In my heart, I had no ill feelings towards those who didn't share different aspects of my identity that were salient. I just came to a point where I'd had enough of explaining, or defending, myself. My cup had overflown.

People are a product of their life experiences. I withdrew from White people, and anyone who seemed to lack the ability or desire to understand me, because I was worn out. It took many years for me to regain the wherewithal, or desire, to not talk about race and racism selectively. I needed a break. Years after college, I regained the desire to build bridges and foster understanding between people who are willing to learn AND do the work. It's why I started the REAL Talk group here with Dr. Stephanie Bramlett to bring adults together across campus to have probing discussions about identity. It's why I also have a podcast (identitynme.com) where I explore identity with a variety of guests.

While I'm back in the head-space of being willing to have cross-cultural exchanges, despite the recognition of my own journey, I'm often dismayed by what appears to be a lack of desire for folks to either learn about, or communicate across, difference. It feels like a new term or idea pops up every year, and folks are just expected to understand and adopt them reflexively. There's a failure, it seems, to recognize that there was a time, not too long ago, when diversity wasn't discussed as broadly. I know where we were not too long ago, and I'm occasionally perplexed when people in my age group, or older, seem to forget that.

And then something happens on the national front, or locally, that reminds me about why I withdrew and lost patience--and why others have taken a tact that appears to be oppositional. Exhaustion leads to withdrawal--at least it did in my experience. These are natural human responses. Until society changes at the root, and not cosmetically, people will continue to feel liked they're being pushed to the margins, and respond in kind. In this way, we're all agents of change.

Movie Review: Minarni

By Emily Kang '21, OMA Proctor

I first learned about the movie "Minari" through YouTube in the Fall of 2020, when the trailer popped up in my suggested bar. I was intrigued because it was a movie about a Korean-American family featuring predominantly Korean-American actors and a Korean-American Director. The trailer sparked anticipation within me. There was finally going to be a movie about Korean-Americans!

While I loved the South Korean movie "Parasite," which swept prestigious awards at the beginning of 2020, I had always longed for a movie about Koreans in the United States. I was excited to find a movie that centered on the Korean-American experience. Better yet, the movie was not dependent on exaggerated stereotypes for a white audience — the movie was telling the story of a family that happened to be Korean-American.

I watched the movie in my Asian-American History and Literature class, and thought it was captivating and beautiful. There were so many moments where the Yi family’s experiences resonated with me. For example, when the son, Alan, complained about his grandmother’s smell, or the parents talked about Korean church, I remembered the similar experiences I had growing up in northern Florida.

The metaphor about the Minari plant was also powerful. Despite the grandmother possibly introducing an invasive species into Arkansas, the traditionally Korean Minari thriving on the Yi family’s property represented the family’s journey to finding a home in an unexpected location. The lone criticism have about Minari are the subtitles.

Throughout the movie, there were times when words were completely missed out of the subtitles, or phrases were shortened. As a person who found the dialogue significant, I wish the subtitles were better so that more people could enjoy the movie as much as I did.

Unsilenced

By Siona Jain '22, OMA Proctor

This year’s pre-MLK Day performing arts extravaganza "UnSilenced" was like no other – a virtual performance, all on Zoom, consisting of 12 performances that raised nearly $1000. Organized by Nahla Owens ‘21, Dillon Mims ‘21, and Siona Jain ‘22 and inspired by Kiki Aguilar ‘20, Alisha Simmons ‘20, Audrey Yin ‘21, and Erin Choi ‘21, UnSilenced 2021 had to adapt to a new Covid era, making room for innovative ideas like an UnSilenced Soundcloud playlist, alumni appearances, and a fundraiser for Indigenous New Hampshire.

As an organizer, I never imagined my upper year UnSilenced would be conducted like this. Dillon, Nahla, and I spent nearly 20 hours in meetings in one week alone trying to round up all performers, create cue cards, edit performances for the SoundCloud, and cut the video. There was one night where several students had to drop out due to the stresses of quarantine, and we had to reach out to six others to reach our performance goal.

Nevertheless, it was a success, with roughly 1400 views and about a hundred students attending the watch party on Zoom. As Senior Audrey Yin’s sunlit face appeared on the screen, rather than exploding into applause in person, students flooded the chat with words of praise. Upper Shantelle Subkhanberdina closed out the show singing” You Say”, and Uppers Marina Williams and Janessa Vargas, along with Seniors Morgan Lee and Genesis Jarett graced us with their words.

Throughout the show, students also showcased their talents in music, dance, and rap to share what MLK day meant to them. While UnSilenced wasn’t in the physical space of Assembly Hall, it still spoke to whom Exeter was created for and the work Exeter must continue to do.

Assembly Reflection Paul Tran

By Mali Rauch '22, OMA Proctor

On December 8th, poet Paul Tran gave the first Assembly of the winter term. I had the privilege of meeting Tran last year – when they hosted a poetry workshop at the Academy during MLK Day. That workshop is one of my fondest memories at PEA. Paul wore a zebra-striped dress with black boots, and I remember being stunned by the beauty and strength they projected. Hearing them read strong, feminist poetry as a proud transgender, queer, confident writer – their voice pushing against the old, established walls of the Elting room in Phillips Hall made me feel like I, too, belonged in this place.

I was beyond thrilled when I saw their name on the Assembly Canvas page. Tran read eight poems, some from their own narrative point of view, and others from the perspectives of a baby monkey and a Bible character. They read from the poem “Like Judith Slaying Holofernes.” There was a captivating line within it that struck me: “Didn’t I tell you that elegance is our revenge?” It struck me as a good descriptor for Tran’s presence.

They spoke of being othered, of their identity as queer and transgender being at odds with their identity as Vietnamese. They read poems of grief, strength, and of vulnerability, all with a regality that dared one to call them a victim. Near the close of Assembly, Paul questioned, “Are we going to wait to find ourselves in the world or are we going to make a world with us in it?” Having listened, and having been washed in their words, I think it was clear what we should do.

New Faculty Spotlight

By Dr. Dionna Richardson, History Instructor

Assalaamualaikum, Exeter! My name is Dr. Richardson. I’m a new teacher this year in the History department. I have asked Dean Camilus to help me introduce myself and my family to the Exeter community. So, here goes...

The best way to start this is just to lay out what I feel are the most salient parts of my identity, and then offer a little explanation as to why I asked Dean Camilus to help me do this. I am a practicing, yet utterly progressive Muslim woman, an activist-educator, a person of very meager financial origins, a first-generation American, high school student, college student, and Graduate student. I live on campus with my partner, Omar, who is an immigrant from Madinah, Saudi Arabia (and, fun fact, a direct descendant of the original Ansari who welcomed and hosted the Prophet SAWS upon his arrival to Madinah)! We are in the Wells Kerr House on Elliot Street at present with my daughter, Julianne, whom you may have seen working as a studio assistant in the Art Studio, and our very energetic and sweet pup, Maya. All of these things: my marginalized and misunderstood faith, my challenging upbringing, my uphill battle with education, and my family composition and experiences make me who I am, and, I think, provide me with unique perspective.

Assembly Reflection

Elizabeth Acevedo

By Dillon Mims '21, OMA Proctor

On Tuesday, March 9, the Academy hosted Elizabeth Acevedo for our virtual assembly format. The Dominican-American poet is most famous for her book, The Poet X, which ninth graders read over the summer, and her many slam-poetry hits. Acevedo has been a frequent read for Academy students, and her presence at an Exeter assembly, albeit virtually, was highly anticipated by students, staff, and faculty alike.

Acevedo was joined for her Assembly by Dr. Courney Marshall of the English Department, and the two shared a casual, back-and-forth conversation about Acevedo’s life and work while the Exeter community watched over a Zoom webinar. Acevedo shared with Dr. Marshall much about her creative process and her journey as a writer— beginning with when she was in school and only thought of herself as a rapper, through her time as an early artist and poet struggling against her parents’ misgivings, to her time as a teacher, then culminating with her current status as a famed and celebrated poet.

Acevedo told Marshall that even her current life doesn’t always suit her perfectly, saying that her constant touring lifestyle doesn’t always lend itself to rest and relaxation at home, and that the pandemic has given her some much-needed time in her own home. Their conversation also included a Q&A element, wherein students got to ask their own questions of Ms. Acevedo such as, “What separates your written poetry from your spoken poetry?” and “Does The Poet X reflect your own life?” There was also a post-assembly Q&A Zoom call, moderated by Senior, Renee Bertrand.

Anti-Racism in the Curriculum

By Mali Rauch '22, OMA Proctor

Throughout this year’s discussions on anti-racism, one thread has held my attention. When Roxanne Gay addressed our community on MLK day, she expressed her fears that the institution that is Exeter could not become an anti-racist place without fundamental change. I have held many of the same fears; I believe that there must be restructuring in staffing, admissions, and discipline in order for this Exeter to distinguish itself from the Exeter I read about in The Exonian’s ‘ Since 1878’ project. I find hope, however, in those individuals doing the best they can in their roles at Exeter to improve what is within their respective jurisdictions.

Where I have seen the change most likely to persist long into the future is in the classroom. I want to commend Dr. Richardson and Ms. Komarek, who have taught me for my first two terms of US History, for centering their formative classes on race, inequity, and social justice. A big part of this was changing the sources we read from. When I asked Ms. Komarek about how she adjusted, she said “Over the summer I made changes to the curriculum for U.S. History with the following goals: being more anti-racist, read primary sources and scholarship from diverse perspectives, shorten homework reading length as we’re in the middle of a pandemic, and to offer more variety of source and assignment type (videos, podcasts, etc).” When asked to comment on how she designed her course, Dr. Richardson said that “with every step of planning from selecting reading assignments to writing questions for discussions, to establishing grading standards and major assignments, I interrogate and critically evaluate the role that white supremacist colonial European education standards have traditionally played here in the United States and around the globe. And I do my best to upend those narrow and exclusionary standards by bringing in a chorus of diverse voices and stories and challenging students to think critically...”

Every reading, or video, I engaged with in these classes had a purpose and an intentional perspective, and the textbooks focused on in Richardson and Komarek’s classes, ‘A Different Mirror – A History of Multicultural America’ by Ronald Takaki, and ‘Stamped from the Beginning’ by Ibram X. Kendi have reshaped my idea of what a textbook can and should be. The Instructors leading my U.S History courses emphasized the deconstruction of master narratives and encouraged my peers and I to make connections between the history we were studying and the history we were living through. The conversations that occurred in their classes during the 2020 election, Black Lives Matter protests, and domestic terrorism at the capitol on January 6th were critical in my processing of this year.

Through the discussions U.S. History fostered, I gained experience talking about the complicated history of racism in America, and now feel more equipped to form my own opinions. I gained the crucial base knowledge of racism that made me see our antiracism courses, discourse in my own life, and the speech of politicians and public figures in a more profound way. Looking forward, I hope that other departments and teachers create environments like the ones I have experienced in U.S. History, and teach their courses with the truth of intersectionality at the focus.

Assembly Reflection

Paul and Denise Pouliot, Indigenous NH

By Kodi Lopez '23, OMA Proctor

On Friday, January 29th, Denise and Paul Pouliot presented an informative and empowering assembly on the Indigenous people that inhabited the land of Exeter and New England more broadly. Denise is the Sag8moskwa, Head Female speaker and Paul is the Sag8mo, the Head male speaker/chief of the Cowasuck band of the Pennacook-Abenaki people of New Hampshire.

N’dakinna (see photo) is the ancestral homeland and waterways of the Abenaki, Pennacook, and Wabanaki peoples past and present. N’dakinna covers parts of Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine, southern Quebec, and all of New Hampshire. Most of the land remains unceded, including the lands of Exeter. Denise and Paul started by debunking stereotypes and introducing us to their ancestors, the Aln8bak (humans/Abenaki peoples).

The Aln8bak had a strong matrilineal society, understood English, French, and Latin. They were deeply spiritual, and understood Christianity (as told by the Jesuits). They had a writing system similar to the ancient phonetic script of Egypt and Phoenicia. History books have painted Native Americans as exclusively having brown-toned skin, but this was simply not true, according to them. The Aln8bak had light skin, which is reasonable for a cooler climate like New Hampshire. They constructed a democracy that lived to the “Three Truths” that the Abenaki believed in: Peace, Righteousness, and Power.

As Europeans came to live in N’dakinna, the Abenaki welcomed them with open arms. The Abenaki believed that everyone on the land is considered family, and families take care of each other. As more and more Europeans came, the Abenaki were drowned out and almost erased.

To this day, the Abenaki are still an unrecognized tribe in the United States. The Odanak band of the Abenaki are recognized in Canada, meaning the Abenaki are a Canadian tribe, according to the United States. As a result, the Abenaki are considered a pre-constitutional tribe and unrecognized. Older history books and colonizers claimed that the Abenaki did not exist – that New Hampshire, Parts of Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, and southern Quebec were entirely unpopulated. Denise and Paul debunk this by showing posters, scripts written by the Jesuits, and old documents, and offering themselves as living evidence of the existence of the Abenaki. “The United States has divided us between those that they acknowledge versus those that they do not. This polarizes Native Indigenous People to compete and work against one another in many ways. What we seek is an unconditional acknowledgement of our continuing existence," said Denise and Paul.

Frankly, I'm saddened that Native Americans must find historical evidence to PROVE their existence. Denise and Paul’s powerful Assembly provided valuable education and perspective about the Abenaki in New Hampshire. With the introduction of the Indigenous Reconciliation Club (IRC), a club that aims to empower Native Americans and educate students on Indigenous topics, Exonians now have access to additional resources and materials that will help start their journey of decolonization and Indigenous Reconciliation. You can find out more about Denise and Paul and their work on their organization’s website at Indigenousnh.com

Anti-Racist Mini Course Queer History

By Ki Odums '23, OMA Proctor

During winter term, the academy began conducting the three-week-long, primarily student-led, anti-racist mini courses. The first mini-course I took, Queer History and Anti-Racism, was led by two students-Emmett and Lydia- who guided others through course materials and discussions.

The course focused on the intersections and influences of race on queer history, specifically in the US. I found myself pouring over very dense, sometimes unanswerable, questions. It made for very deep, intriguing discussions. For each session, I was regularly amazed at the observations my peers made. The safe, inclusive atmosphere helped foster rich conversations, whether in breakout rooms or as a large group.

Our student facilitators provided a variety of exercises and course materials. From the student facilitator Lydia’s perspective, the course was “super insightful and really helpful for understanding how certain people would approach conversations about the topic”. The diversity in the sub-topics discussed made this course a high point in my week. We covered topics that range from historically queer communities, the origins of balls and Voguing, and the impact queer people of color have had on the LGBTQ+ movement and community. It became something I looked forward to every Wednesday.

It must be acknowledged that the students facilitating the course came from backgrounds that identified with the course contents. This was a very important part of why I enjoyed the course. To have student leaders who understand the sensitivity of the subjects discussed made the course ultimately more engaging and digestible. I look forward to additional experiences of the like during my time at PEA.

Assembly Review

Dr. Anthony Ocampo

By Janessa Vargas '22, OMA Proctor

On January 12th, Filipino-American sociologist and professor, Dr. Anthony Ocampo, was our Assembly speaker. The Exeter Pinoy Society, which is an affinity club for students who identify as Filipino (American), was a co-sponsor for the Assembly. Ocampo had a warm presence and first gave his thanks to the audience. Thereafter, he discussed the matter of representation and how it felt to go into a predominantly white field in academia as a queer, Filipino, and first-generation student.

Dr. Ocampo was vulnerable in his presentation and in discussing how he came to academia, specifically Race and Ethnicity studies in sociology. He shared some stories about being down on his luck while in higher education and another that truly jumpstarted a question for him, as a Filipino-American, who felt like he stood at the crossroads of being Asian-American on paper and his identity being disputed by fellow Asian-Americans. Later, he was inspired to write his book, “The Latinos of Asia: How Filipino Americans Break the Rules of Race”. After the Assembly, the Exeter Pinoy Society held a Q & A session.

I was a huge fan of Dr. Ocampo’s assembly. It isn't often that Exeter gets an Assembly speaker whose work is explicitly intersectional. Dr. Ocampo also identifies as gay, making him one of few Queer People of Color that are invited to speak at Exeter. He also spoke a good amount about his connection with the Latinx community, as he feels that the Filipino community finds themselves struggling with similar social constructs of race after colonization.

Undoubtedly, Exeter needs more educators like Dr. Anthony Ocampo, who see beyond the lines of race and societal perception.

Proctor Reflection

Lamont Poet: John Murillo

By Iliana Rios '21, OMA Proctor

John Murillo is an award-winning Afro-Latinx poet and this year’s Lamont Poet. In his virtual reading, Murillo started by acknowledging the work of other poets and explaining their significance to his own life and work, like Exeter’s very own, Willie Perdomo. Murillo went on to read various of his own pieces.

He revealed that his rapping got him into poetry when he was just eleven years old. In explaining his pieces, he speaks of negative capability, which is the ability to be okay with the unknown–– a necessary trait for poets. Although Murillo was unable to present directly to the Exeter community, it’s clear that his work resonated with everyone listening. During the Q&A portion of the reading, Murillo explained the significance behind the title of his book: Kontemporary Amerkican Poetry.

He explained that the two ‘K’s remind you of a third one. This parallels the reality of racism, always an underlying tone that doesn’t have to be presented overtly in order to exist. Murillo tells us that a lot of his current work involves social justice and police brutality. He emphasizes the fact that the victims of these racist atrocities are too often described as Black and Brown bodies, but they’re so much more than just a body. They’re a human, a soul. In one of these recent poems, Murillo included the name of the most recent victim of police brutality. Each time he reads this piece aloud, the name is updated.

Murillo’s work is inspiring and truly moving. It was an honor to hear him speak as this year's Lamont Poet.

New BIPOC Faculty Profiles

Jameel Moore

Jameel Moore has joined the Phillips Exeter Academy community as an Associate Director of College Counseling. He most recently worked as a Senior Assistant Dean of Admissions at Bowdoin College, in Brunswick, Maine. Jameel has spent his entire career around the admissions/college application field, and joins the CCO with a genuine interest in helping and supporting students reach their desired levels of success. He believes that going to college is a dynamic opportunity and can be a life changing experience for young people. Jameel is a die-hard sports fan (Boston teams especially), enjoys traveling, and has an extensive list of restaurants he hopes to visit across the country. He is excited to start working with students and hopes to add to that list of food destinations based on their recommendations.

Kevin Pajaro-Mariñez

Kevin Pajaro-Mariñez is the new Assistant Director for Equity and Inclusion. He is a first-generation Black Latino with Colombian and Dominican roots. Intellectually, Kevin is interested in how to make social justice ideas accessible and action-oriented. Through his Black Men’s Reading and Reflection Group, Kevin also thinks through how we can move beyond notions of patriarchal masculinity. He firmly believes the work of social justice cannot happen without collaboration and community-based efforts. Outside of his job responsibilities, Kevin enjoys dancing bachata and salsa, playing his Nintendo Switch (self-proclaimed Mario Kart champ!), and reading. Kevin looks forward to his first independent school experience at PEA.

Created by: Ms. Peterson

Who is Black History for?

By Dillon Mims '21, OMA Proctors

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement this summer, Black History Month, 2021 felt far more universally recognized than in past years. This is, no doubt, due to the increased recognition of Black plights and Black stories (and Black history) within the country. And such development begs an obvious question: who is Black history month for?

Is it for predominantly white institutions (PWIs) and other white organizations to champion? Or is it primarily for black groups, organizations, and institutions alone? You could make either argument— that the power, prestige, and influence of PWIs compels them to be the loudest voices celebrating and advocating for Black History. The counter thought is that the proximity and sacredness of Black History should belong only (or at least primarily) to Black people themselves.

I think that the answer, though, lies somewhere in the middle, and not for either reason. It is impossible to tell the story of America without discussing the contributions of Black people. Black History is American History. We cannot separate the two. Perhaps we can acknowledge Black History as possessing its own importance, but we cannot pretend as though the ethnic history and national history are not inextricably linked. And so, for this reason, I believe that Black History must belong and be championed by all of us.

Black History Month

By Iliana Rios '21, OMA Proctor

After witnessing Dr. Roxane Gay’s keynote address to our school on MLK Day, I can only hope that our school community is ready and excited to celebrate Black History Month. To me, Black History Month involves appreciating, uplifting, and honoring Black voices and Black history. Though these actions should not be limited to one single month each year, we have the opportunity and responsibility to immerse ourselves in education and service––particularly as an institution dedicated to anti-racism.

Many Exeter students, myself included, previously attended schools where Black History Month was overlooked and/or simply ignored. Throughout my three years at Exeter, I’ve always appreciated OMA’s dedication to the month, but I do wish I saw these efforts elsewhere too. Not just in OMA-sponsored clubs and events, but in classes, assembly, and student activities. Even then, when efforts are implemented into our classes, we tend to designate English and history courses as the ones to carry them out. What about math and science courses?

Events such as Black History Month are not exclusively grounded in the humanities and I think that Exeter needs to do a better job of acknowledging and applying this.

MLK Keynote Speaker Roxane Gay

By Kodi Lopez '23, OMA Proctor

The Academy celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day online on January 18th. The Academy posted a page on Exeter Connect and shared links to virtual museum tours, podcasts, MLK service websites, and hosted Dr. Roxane Gay ‘92 as the keynote speaker.

Dr. Gay is a Black writer, professor, Feminist, and social activist. Her speech was bold and echoed Black and other POC voices on campus. She first commented on her invitation to speak, saying “Every month of the year I am invited to events like these with a vague mandate to speak on ‘race’ and diversity even though these are not my areas of expertise, but I am Black, you know, so that should cover it... I am exhausted.” When the topic of the Harkness table turns to one of my racial identities, I always had a few heads turn to me when we were in person last year. I know I am not the only one who has experienced this microaggression at the Harkness table, and hearing from Dr. Gay is refreshing.

Dr. Gay reflected on her time at Exeter as a Black woman. She remembers empowering teachers and friends, but also the racist microaggressions she experienced as a student and even now as an alum when a teacher expressed “surprise” that she had made something of herself. She criticized the academy for still being an environment in which Black students need to turn to @Blackatexeter to feel safe enough to talk about their racist experiences at the academy.

@Blackatexeter is an anonymous Instagram account for Black students and alums to vocalize their racist experiences at the academy. She comments “It is devastating to see that very little has changed for Black students here... It would benefit us all to start thinking of Non-Sibi in more complex ways. One of the best ways we can serve each other is by making [Exeter] a more welcoming institution because @blackatexeter should not exist." I could hear the fingers snapping as she delivered those poignant remarks. She continued, "the students that attend and have attended this school should not be forced to carry so much trauma just to get an education. What Black students and students of color more broadly need from this institution is real sustained change, not just letters, not just awareness, not just celebrations of black history. They need a school that becomes genuinely invested in making Exeter a welcoming place for everyone.”

During the Q&A section, Dr. Gay called on the faculty with repeated offense to be fired. She called on more reform to be made in the Academy. “Each member of the Exeter community should ask; can you, in this hallowed institution, stand idly by and not be concerned given everything you know about what happens here on this campus, given everything you know about the world. And if you cannot stand idly by, and I do hope you cannot, what are you going to do?”

Dr. Gay shared very loudly the racism she and many students face every day on campus and in the Exeter community. Gay’s words were platformed for the whole community to hear and duly act on, and I hope that this brings more attention to the solutions that are being presented by students. I appreciate Dr. Gay for coming to speak on behalf of the students.

My Black Is Legendary Fashion Show

By Siona Jain '22, OMA Proctor

In honor of Black History Month, Office of Multicultural Affairs intern Ms. Montique organized a fashion show for Black History titled, My Black is Legendary. The show was weeks in the making, and Ms. Montique, OMA Proctors, and Dean Camilus began writing the script for the emcees in December.

Inspired by her fashion show at her alma mater the University of New Hampshire, the show was a hit – featuring scenes like Immigration, Protest, Fairytales, Stereotypes, among others. Each scene combatted stereotypes and celebrated Black and African American history. An electric night, students danced down the runway while other students and faculty clamored for live seating.

Dr. Peterson wowed in her princess dress, combatting the Eurocentric white princess image. Seniors Marymeghan and Genesis flaunted their dance moves at the end of the show. The success of this show has led many students to express interest for the show to become an annual tradition!

Immigration, Racism, and Ethnicity

By Emily Kang '21, OMA Proctor

The Anti-Racist mini-course that I am taking at the moment is called "Immigration, Racism, and Ethnicity." At our first meeting, I remember my group beginning with an activity where we created a world map using this question: What three words come to mind when you are asked “what does it mean to be an American”?

This question stuck out to me. I never really thought about the idea of being “American.” For as long as I could remember, I identified as ‘Korean,’ ‘Asian,’ ‘Korean American,’ or ‘Asian American.’ However, I never considered myself just ‘American.’ Realizing the distance I felt with the term ‘American,’ I began to wonder why this was the case.

The first few words that my peers added on the word map were “freedom,” “hamburger,” and ‘July 4th.’ The words did not resonate with who I was. Freedom reminded me of the Revolutionary War which happened way before Asian people arrived in the U.S. Sure I liked hamburgers, but I prefer noodle soups. My family never celebrated July 4 unless our neighbors invited us to their party. Looking at the words, I began to think that my perception of ‘American’ felt distant because the words and ideas associated with the term are centered around a majority white United States. Growing up with Korean parents, I never saw myself as a personal representative of the United States or a plain ‘American.’

Since the first meeting, my Anti-Racist course has watched a video featuring immigration expert Erika Lee and discussed historical and current events that have shaped our perceptions of immigration, ethnicity, and race. While I do think that the course could be better with supplemental reading, it was interesting to hear my peers’ thoughts and reflect on my identity and my family’s relationship with immigration.

The Equitable Exeter Experience E^3

By Ms. Montique, OMA Office Intern

During the winter term, I had the pleasure of working with Dr. Bramlett, Dean Hernandez, and Ms. Smith in hopes of reviving the Equitable Exeter Experience, otherwise known as E-cubed. I am super excited about this program and I’m more excited for students of color. I participated in a similar program named “Connect” during my four years at the University of New Hampshire (UNH). When I first arrived on the campus as a first-year student, I was extremely overwhelmed. In the sea of people on campus, I could hardly find folks that looked like me. Sadly, I left the orientation program in tears with the plan to not attend college. Shortly after that experience, I received an email informing me about the Connect Program. Connect’s main goal was to help students like me who didn’t believe we belonged on campus.

The idea of being connected to all the resources available to me as a student and meeting professors and students that resembled me encouraged me to sign up. That was the best decision I made because Connect was a huge part of my experience at my alma mater and a big help to my growth and transition as a first-generation student. After completing the program as a first-year student, I was a peer mentor for the next generation of first-year students.

Being a mentor was an enriching experience. I loved seeing my mentees transition into student leaders. Throughout the experience, I made life-long friends, built a relationship with BIPOC professors and the Dean of Students knew me by name. As we launch E-cubed this summer, I urge BIPOC students to apply to become peer mentors for the incoming preps. I encourage you all to reflect on your first time at PEA and what advice or tips you can share with the incoming class. We must support and show up for one another.

First-Generation Students/Parent Services

By Mrs. Nikki Manderlink, Associate Director of College Counseling

Counselors in the CCO understand that there are unique challenges as well as great rewards when working with first-generation to college students, which is why we are committed to providing additional services to this population. Several of Exeter’s college counselors were first-gen students themselves, and know the value of an expanded support system in college admissions because first-gen students’ families often cannot call on their own first-hand experience with the process. Last spring, the CCO hosted a panel of first-gen seniors to share their experiences navigating the college process with younger Exonians. Seniors offered advice on managing not only the college process, but also their time at Exeter including selecting courses, engaging in extracurricular activities, and being active in affinity/cultural clubs. This year, a few of our first-gen seniors are busy working on short videos offering pearls of wisdom to be posted on the CCO’s new first-gen to college webpage.

The CCO has also initiated a first-gen series for parents and guardians. Often first-gen parents/guardians want to be more involved but feel unsure of the level of involvement that is appropriate and what advice to give. We know that family support is critical in the success of first-gen students navigating the college process as well as in making decisions regarding their futures. The five-part series provides information designed to help parents/guardians feel more confident and empowered as they support their students through a complex college admission process.

Our vision is to provide information to Exeter’s first-gen parent/guardian population, as well as create a space where community and conversation can flourish. Once a month since January, members of the CCO have met with parents/guardians identifying as having students who will be the first in the family to attend college in the U.S. These discussions have included a review of our four-year college curriculum, an overview of the College Admissions Weekend program that was held in mid-February for parents/guardians of Upper families, and paying for college scheduled for later in March. We believe that by building stronger relationships with first-gen families, students will come to the college process with greater enthusiasm, excitement, and confidence. We are off to a great start and we anticipate the group growing in the years to come. If you have questions regarding the CCO’s first-gen programming, please reach out reach out to the College Counseling Office at ccoffice@exeter.edu.

Book Review

Mrs. Jennifer Smith, International Student Coordinator

As I’ve said in earlier articles, I love reading. I am a proud book nerd and at present, belong to two book clubs, (which is a slow month for me.) Besides my work in OMA, a friend and I have set off on a mission to regularly engage with books that are written by, or about, voices and perspectives that are underrepresented and/or different from our own. She recommended Sitting Pretty: The View from My Ordinary Resilient Disabled Body by Rebekah Taussig and I was happy to see my public library had a copy available.

In my role in the Office of Multicultural Affairs, I am regularly thinking about and creating programs that center diversity, equity and inclusion. I regularly think about matters of privilege (including my own). However, reading this book made me realize that my lens should zoom out, like way out. My lens has not often included disabled people. In not having to include this in my assessments and programming, which shows another layer of my privilege and how I navigate society, it reveals how my own identity is tightly wrapped around ableism.

Taussig emphatically takes the stance in her book that ableism affects us all, whether we are disabled or not, and I was profoundly struck by her point that disability is a state. What she means is that people are often moving in and out of disability at various points in their lives. She talks about how one might become disabled in an instant, and not just with injury (though that’s a pertinent example,) but with a bad flu or pregnancy and suddenly, that individual is experiencing disabling limitations. She defines ableism for her readers, feeling that the Oxford English Dictionary definition is inadequate and so she says “ableism is the process of favoring, fetishizing, and building the world around a mostly imagined, idealized body while discriminating against those bodies perceived to move, see, hear, process, operate, look, or need differently from that vision.” (p. 10.)

Taussig reminds us that even if we are not consciously aware of it, ableism is in the background of simply everything we do- every conversation, story, the way a building is built, the cars we drive, our ability to rent or buy a home; the rules that we live by. She points out to us that some bodies are more preferable over others, and our society reinforces this every day in every single way. How many disabled bodies do we see in ads? In popular shows? What are the narratives around those individuals? Is it that those bodies need to be ‘fixed’, or are ‘broken/deficient? Self-worth…how much is that tied up in how our body works?

This book had a profound impact on me; I’ve already found myself percolating on many stories and facts she dissected. One in particular, going right for the elephant in the room: do you offer to help disabled people when you see them? Are you doing so for altruistic means and self-gain? She talked about being in a restaurant grabbing food to go and not being able to reach the napkins up on the counter. It’s nice that someone grabbed a bunch and handed them to her- but asks “where’s the person who’s adjusting the counter so that all people’s bodies can reach them in the first place?” Ahhh, and we come back to equity and inclusion. I know I will continue working on adjusting my lens as a result of reading this and I think that this text is an essential read for all.

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