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Fridley students lead discussion at Black History Month event
Posted 02/12/2018 01:14PM

More than 25 Fridley High School students of the African American Student Union (AASU) participated in the 3rd annual Cities United Black History Month Event on February 2, 2018. The annual event is hosted at Hennepin Technical College by youth from the Brooklyn Park Cities United Sound Off Station. The event was attended by more than 200 high school students from around the metro area, as well as students representing the Northwest Suburban Integration School District consortium. As the event is collaborative and youth-led, it serves as an opportunity for students to express viewpoints and share experiences, as well as learn from and connect with other students and community members.

For the first time, the Fridley AASU led a breakout session on microaggression - what it means, how to identify it, and how to respond.

“Microaggression is an instance of a subtle or backhanded act of discrimination,” said AASU President Savannah Covington. “It can be regarding race, socioeconomic group, gender, or any other minority group.”

Covington said AASU chose to educate others on microaggression because many people are not aware of what microaggression even is.

“Many people don’t realize when they’re doing it, and the effect that this can have on people. Since certain perceived notions are so ingrained in our society, sometimes you don’t really realize a microaggression when you are expressing it,” said Covington.

In the presentation, AASU members compared microaggression to mosquito bites. The group played an example video, which explained that while mosquito bites are annoying - they aren’t too bad if you are only bitten once in awhile. While frequent mosquito bites can be incredibly unnerving and certain groups of people can experience ‘mosquito bites’ a lot more than others.

“Your English is so good” or “You’re so well-spoken for a black person” are just a couple examples of microaggressive comments. While they are intended to be compliments, these types of comments are often ignorant and condescending.

After the presentation, AASU members led the audience to express personal experiences of microaggression, as well as write down some examples in groups around the room.

AASU advisor Aloda Sims described AASU as a club that helps to empower students and encourage diversity.

“This is an outlet for our students to express concerns, as well as positive changes they would like to see in their schools,” Sims said.

AASU board member Jamia Johnson added, “It doesn’t matter what your ethnicity is. AASU is a safe space for any student who wants to join.”

Sims has brought AASU to the Black History Month event for three years now. She said participating in this event is an excellent opportunity for students to relate to others, express their concerns and learn how to combat their concerns in an impactful way.

“I think it's important for youth to understand their power, their voices,” said Sims. “They learn and understand how to present to their peers. This can really have a long lasting effect on them as they go out into their communities. They are able to advocate for things that are meaningful to them, and express their passion for things that they want to see changed in their community.”

As president of AASU for two years, Covington knows the value of the platform that AASU offers her and her fellow group members.

“I feel like this event is definitely a platform for not only youth to come together, but to share and become knowledgeable about important things,” said Covington. “It's also a good opportunity for youth to take on leadership roles and get to teach things about themselves or things that they really care about. It’s important for us to have a platform, where we, instead of someone else, get to tell and share our own narratives.”

The Black History Month event also featured performances from local artists, well-known guest speakers, a social justice presentation, a poetry slam on equity and an opportunity to network and share ideas with high school students across the metro area. Coinciding with Black History Month, the event is held to celebrate black excellence and spark dialogue among students, school staff and community members.

    

   

Top left: Fardowsa Mohamed addresses audience questions and comments during the Fridley AASU session on microaggression. Top right: Ben Zayzay explains his group's reasoning behind how microaggressive behavior can have harmful effects, like the reinforcement of negative and inaccurate stereotypes. Bottom left: China Murray writes about the negative effects of microaggression during the breakout session of Fridley AASU presentation. Bottom right: AASU President Savannah Covington explains microagression during the AASU-led session.


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