By Zoey Ocampo-Sobkoviak
Ending racism and building peace is a cause that is very personal for me as a Latinx student of color and the founder of the Art and Activism Club at Mount Madonna School.
A lot of what we do in the club is about sharing the work of diverse artists, tackling systemic problems, and celebrating different cultures and identities through artwork. In a time that is plagued by social issues such as racism, violence, poverty, and war in countries like Ukraine, Palestine, Ethiopia, Iran, Venezuela, and many others, holding events such as these remind us to continue our efforts toward achieving global peace are extremely important.
While an event like the International Day of Peace dedicated to ending racism may not have immediate tangible effects, it can inspire us to take action to better our world and be more compassionate towards our fellow humans. Change always starts small, and localized events like this can spark ideas that travel to a wider scope of people.
Mount Madonna School’s International Day of Peace event on Sept. 21 commenced with a land acknowledgment honoring the Ohlone who lived on the land before European colonization and who now preserve the cultural practices of their people. As the land acknowledgment emphasized, acknowledging the history of a place is the first step toward healing it and ourselves.
Being honest with ourselves about past crimes and darker histories is essential to moving forward in a radically positive way; a critical reckoning that I do not think we have done enough of in this country. For me, setting this intention of honoring the earth we walk on and the privileges or struggles that put us where we are today, was an essential step before we could continue with our talks of peace and justice.
The speakers that followed: Rabbi Paula Marcus, Dr. Faris Sabbah, Kailash Pati Brown, our Model United Nations Club advisors Greg Shirley and Chrislaine Miller, and student speakers, all had important wisdom and perspectives to share about building peace and dismantling racism.
I appreciated the different voices that were shared, and I spoke with our Upper School Director Shannon Kelly, who shared similar sentiments.
“I was inspired by International Peace Day and grateful for the different speakers we had, including Dr. Sabbah’s story about his experience living in Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, and emigrating to the U.S., which made the idea of cease-fire and peace-building seem more tangible,” Kelly noted. “Our student speakers were exceptional and I enjoyed how everything people touched on was interconnected and on theme.”
Our celebration of the International Day of Peace reflects our commitment to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals as a recently certified, global SDG school. I know we can go even further in how we create an equitable environment for all in our school community, and help those outside of it. I think that implanting these development goals into our lessons in the classroom, how we treat our school environment, and how we interact with the world will only benefit us as we go off to our future pursuits beyond Mount Madonna.
This is imminent for me as I apply to college, which will no doubt thrust me into a wealth of new perspectives. I will take these lessons with me as I figure out how I want to make an impact on the world, whether by utilizing a future degree in environmental biology or through community organizing and art advocacy.
Zoey Ocampo-Sobkoviak is a senior at Mount Madonna School.