Over two-hundred students from various Shoreline high schools came together for a Social Justice Conference presented by SEED and Tanisha Felder in collaboration with foundry10 and shoreline foundation among a few other organizations. As students filed into the Shoreline Conference Center and mingled with other schools before sitting down for the start of the day, it became clear this idea to provide students with a professional conference style experience was going to be an exciting new avenue to explore topics of social justice. After an incredible performance by a shoreline STEP Team followed by a powerfully poignant and vulnerable keynote speaker that left the room moved by her story, students self-selected into two- from nearly 15 possible workshops- on social justice using different mediums of arts and technology as the practicum for exploration. Among the professional artists and activists from the Seattle area were three foundry10 representatives including Jon Grazier teaching visual arts through identity interpretation in self portrait, John John Roque teaching hip hop as a medium for self expression and justice activation, and Chelsea LeValley leading social justice theater arts exploration through forum theater and scene creation.
In social justice theater arts some of the topics students identified and developed through scene work included classism, racism, gay rights, girls not being treated equally in school. It was amazing to watch the male and female students navigate this inequity through a group-generated scene. It the end of the workshop, I asked students to share one word of phrase that’s coming to their mind. Words included: fun, deep, stand-up!, inspired, informed, happy, heard, represented. Student feedback forms reflected engaged learning and play, with statements like “this was so much fun! there were a lot of laughs!” and “I felt I had a safe environment to try new things and talk about social justice. I learned a lot about social justice.” Some students specifically asked for more time in the future. With only a half day event and a collaboration with many partners from the area, it seems this kind of opportunity should be done again!