Student Diversity League Leads 18th Annual Culture Jam

On Friday, January 14, 2022, the Upper School community gathered on campus to participate in Culture Jam, The Ellis School’s annual diversity conference for high school students. Organized by Ellis’ Student Diversity League (SDL) and now in its eighteenth year, Culture Jam is the longest-running student-led diversity conference in the region.
"This event was student-led in every way," remarked Dr. Denise LaRosa, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. "I am extremely proud of our student leaders, who embody what it feels like, looks like, and sounds like to take action. This was their vision, and they saw it through to fruition."

The theme of this year’s Culture Jam, Apathy to Action, examined how individuals can take accountability for the roles they play in systems of oppression. Through courageous conversations and deep self-reflection, students learned how steps can be taken to move beyond palatable, performative action and ignite the sparks of authentic, meaningful change. The conference gave students the opportunity to explore various social justice topics alongside their peers through thoughtfully planned activities. Students also participated in workshops such as:
  • Jew Coding in Children’s Media
  • The Ungendering of Black Women
  • The Pronoun Throwdown
  • The Influence of Colorism on Minorities
  • The Future of Fashion: The Movement Towards Ethical Clothing
  • From Country to Cradle: A Crash Course on Chinese Adoption
  • How Media Affects the Perception of Lesbians
  • The American Legacy of Anti-Asian Sentiment, Yellow Peril, and Sinophobia
  • Black Hair
  • Addressing Homelessness in Pittsburgh
  • Diminishing the Holocaust From Distortion to Trivialization
A keynote address was delivered by Calvin Murphy, a local advocate for family and community support with a background in education and youth services. Mr. Murphy spoke with students about how his experiences as a teacher led him to explore the topic of trauma-informed care, an approach to engaging with others that emphasizes empathy and understanding. He stressed that by recognizing the fact that everyone comes from unique backgrounds and experiences the world differently, connections can be forged that are deeper and more genuine—and that inspire real change.

"It’s so important for students to look inward and reflect on what unique gifts, identifiers, and skill sets they bring to our efforts toward being an inclusive school community," said Dr. LaRosa. "Each student is an integral part of our school community and society. We see them; we hear them; we want them to know they matter and to feel a strong sense of belonging and love toward their fellow community members."
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