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Harker Aquila

The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

Harker hosts first ever Social Justice Conference

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Brandon Zau
Maria Hantzopoulos speaks as the morning keynote for Harker’s Social Justice Conference in the Zhang Gym on Nov. 10. Hantzopoulos spoke about her personal upbringings in Queens, New York and her experiences with students with New York City public schools to address how the community can support social justice.

275 students, faculty and staff from all Harker campuses attended Harker’s inaugural Social Justice Conference at the upper school from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Nov. 10. 

The conference featured a series of workshops on social justice, human rights and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) topics. Students and faculty from all campuses, as well as attendees from schools across the Bay Area, heard from six workshop speakers as well as the morning and afternoon keynotes. 

“My favorite thing that I saw today was a lot of laughter, a lot of smiles,” Director of DEI Brian Davis said. “Your own story, your own experiences [are] enough for you to have the power and influence to make change — not only here Harker, but beyond Harker as well.”

Vassar College professor and morning keynote speaker Maria Hantzopoulos asked everyone to take a moment to reflect on the core tenets of social justice in the Athletic Center. Hantzopoulos incorporated her personal experiences as a public school teacher and advocate for education in New York City to help define key terms like equity, equality and social justice. Throughout the keynote, Hantzopoulos encouraged discussion between attendees through question prompts that participants could write about or discuss.

Assistant Upper School Division Head Kelly Horan shares her thoughts during a workshop about social interactions between individuals. Monisha Bajaj’s “Finding Our Role in Social Change” workshop discussed the different archetypes the participants identified with and the layered web of societal structures. Alison Yang

“I really wanted to set the tone for the day as the keynote because the workshops will be meatier to look deeply into things,” Hantzopoulos said. “I wanted to look at what social justice is and how it might manifest in our lives.”

Following the keynote, attendees moved on to the first workshop session. Subjects ranged from institutional and systemic takes on social justice, like in Darius White’s “Pushin’ P: Power, Privilege, Positionality” and Hantzopoulos’s “Rooting our Futures in Peace, Justice, and Human Rights,” to interpersonal relationships in Melissa Canlas’s  “Revolutionary Love: Practices for social justice, collective care, wellness, and joy.” The workshops took place from 9:35 to 10:40 a.m. in the Nichols Auditorium, Dobbins Hall and Main classrooms.

In the second round of workshops, attendees continued learning and exploring through workshops, including the earlier series and others with a scientific angle, such as a “Genealogy Workshop” and “Towards an Understanding of the Earth’s Voice.” “Genealogy Workshop” co-host and Berkeley Gender and Women’s Studies Associate Professor Courtney Desiree Morris emphasized the importance of making present decisions to improve the future. 

Director of diversity, equity and inclusion Brian Davis introduces the morning keynote speaker during Harker’s social justice conference on Nov. 10. “We wanted to create an atmosphere of inquiry, intellectualism and conversations about things we care about,” Davis said in an interview. “Your approach to justice and change is rooted in something much deeper than where you are right now.” (Brandon Zau)

“Remember that you are a subject of history,” Morris said. “You are a product of history, and you’re also shaping history. If you can remember that, then I hope it will make people more conscientious about the choices that they’re making right now and that they really take seriously their ability to shape the kind of future world that they want to see.”

A third round of workshops preceded University of San Francisco International and Multicultural Education Professor Monisha Bajaj’s afternoon keynote. Bajaj, who attended Harker Academy from 1985 to 1987, closed the conference with her presentation on human rights. She highlighted the concepts of accompaniment, amplification and action, encouraging attendees to consider the action that they could take in the face of inequality and injustice.

“It gave me some new perspectives that I never thought of and basically opened up the world of social justice,” Social Justice Conference attendee Amy Tong (9) said. “My main takeaway is that if you want to invest in social justice, you don’t have to do anything big. You can start from something small and still make an impact.”

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About the Contributors
Felix Chen, Co-News Editor
Felix Chen (11) is the co-news editor for Harker Aquila and the Winged Post, and this is his third year on staff. Felix hopes to diversify this year's news coverage and work with members of the staff from all grades, contributing to the creation of a tight-knit community with a joy for journalism. He enjoys writing and reading of all sorts in his free time.
Alison Yang, Co-A&E and Lifestyle Editor
Alison Yang (11) is the co-arts and entertainment and lifestyle editor for Harker Aquila and the Winged Post, and this is her third year on staff. Alison is looking forward to getting to know more people and working on photography. She also likes to hang out with her cat Schrödinger, play Russian Fishing 4 and watching bad movies.
Brandon Zau, Photo Editor
Brandon Zau (12) is the photo editor for Harker Aquila, and this is his fourth year on staff. This year, Brandon hopes to celebrate his senior Class of 2024 peers and to tell the stories of the Harker community through meaningful photos and coverage. In his free time, Brandon enjoys taking candid pictures of his friends, listening to music and playing baseball.
Vivek Moorjani, Reporter
Vivek Moorjani (10) is a reporter for Harker Aquila, and this is his second year on staff. This year, Vivek hopes to explore different writing styles in journalism. In his free time, he likes to read non-fiction and watch various movies and television shows.

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