By Advisor Rolanda Shepard
The Upper School SOCA (Students of Color Affinity) group culminated the 2021–22 year with a field trip entitled Cross-Cultural Exploration. Each of the affinity groups that currently make up SOCA (Asian Alliance, Black Student Union, Organization of Latin American Students, Men of Color Heritage Affinity, Muslim Student Association and Women of Color Affinity) were asked to provide suggestions to the adult sponsors, Mr. Davis, Ms. Pantoja and Ms. Shepard, for places/experiences they’d like to share with the entire group. Based on their responses, the sponsors determined the course of the day. The locations the groups visited are listed below:
The 32 students from across the Upper School, along with the four chaperons—Ms. Shepard, Ms. Pantoja, Mr. Davis and Mr. Carlsson—spent the day experiencing a variety of cultures through art and history. “Amigas and Amigos...the youth have the right to defend their country with knowledge!” started off our day as we toured Humboldt Park, during which time students learned about Lincoln Park’s historical beginnings as a Puerto Rican neighborhood, gentrification and resegregation, and the activists working for city services, affordable housing, healthcare and access to healthy food for the community. This was a powerful beginning to a wonderful day, and it was a homecoming for some of the students and adults present who had previously lived in Humboldt Park. We visited the expansive site of the Obama Presidential Center. Students would go on to learn about the vibrant Black Art scene in Chicago, Huey Newton's support of gay rights and the Black Feminist movement, Bronzeville’s early drag scene, the Chicago Fire and fashion designers Stephen Burrows and Chicago’s own Barbara Bates and concluded the day with food, fun and celebration.
When asked to describe the experience, 9th grader Sejal Ahuja stated, “Overall, this field trip proved how culturally diverse this city is. It was incredible to see how a 20-minute bus ride could practically take you around the world. I had so much fun, and I feel like I benefited greatly from the experience!”
“The trip was a great educational experience; it was wonderful to see students of color connecting, bonding and spending time together. I enjoyed learning something new and having a chance to share and reflect with students,” said sponsor Mr. Davis.
Senior Yaleigh Harris shared, “I really appreciated getting a chance to learn more about my own culture and other cultures through such artistic and creative ways. Also, any chance I get to hang out with my other SOC (Student of Color) peers always leaves me feeling refreshed.”
Freshman Gabriel Vilus expressed, “Parker’s POC (People of Color) community is stronger than I thought. I was pleasantly surprised.” It’s not often enough that the students of color get to be together in one setting. Hearing the responses from the students in attendance and those who were unable to attend reminded us as faculty sponsors of the importance of intentionally carving out more time for gatherings such as this to happen. We have more work to do.”