Greetings from the OEIJB! The month of September and early October have been filled with celebrations, recognitions, and community building activities that help to establish a place of belonging for our community. Below are some of the highlights of the different activities that have taken place on campus, a note about Indigenous People’s Day, and a look into what’s next on our docket.
Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month Assemblies
On Thursday, October 6, and Friday, October 7, the Upper School Hispanic/Latinx Student Affinity Group presented two assemblies, one to the Lower School (LS) and one to the Upper School(US). Each assembly offered a personal look at Hispanic and Latinx cultures, including geography and notable figures from Latin American countries, and both assemblies were entirely student designed and led. This video accompanied the LS Assembly, and this slidedeck accompanied the Upper School Assembly. Following the US Assembly, the students who presented led a dance lesson outside the Performing Arts Center (PAC).
A Sukkah for Sukkot
This week, the Upper School Jewish Student Affinity Group constructed a Sukkah outside the Upper School building. Sukkot is an Autumn festival holiday during which Jews build a "sukkah" –or temporary dwelling–outdoors. The sukkah is a traditional place where family and friends eat meals together during the weeklong holiday, but in public spaces, it can be a chance to educate friends about the holiday or to call for action with broader causes such as Refugee crises and environmental initiatives. One central aspect of Sukkot is to inclusively engage with others as it is a mitzvah to welcome guests into a Sukkah. In the Sukkah, one may also reflect on what and where is a home, while connecting to the sacred through being outside in nature. This week-long holiday starts five days after Yom Kippur on the full moon, and this year goes from sundown October 9 to sundown October 16. Be sure to view a time lapse video of the sukkah construction.
Columbus Day? Fall Break? Indigenous People’s Day!
For years, Sandy Spring has been closed on the second Monday of October in observance of a day that was at first referred to as “Columbus Day.” As more information about the explorer long credited with “discovering” what would come to be called America, Sandy Spring–and many other independent schools–began calling it “Fall Break.” Here is an excerpt from Christopher Columbus’s journal that describes his first encounter with members of the Arowak tribe:
These people in the Caribbean have no creed and they are not idolaters, but they are very gentle and do not know what it is to be wicked, or to kill others, or to steal...and they are sure that we come from Heaven....So your Highnesses should resolve to make them Christians, for I believe that if you begin, in a little while you will achieve the conversion of a great number of peoples to our holy faith, with the acquisition of great lordships and riches and all their inhabitants for Spain. For without doubt there is a very great amount of gold in these lands….
They brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks' bells. They willingly traded everything they owned. They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.
Given the dissonance between Columbus’s words about the Native people he encountered and the Quaker belief that there is, “That of God in everyone,” Sandy Spring Friends School is moving toward calling the holiday “Indigenous People’s Day.” Along with our efforts to consistently acknowledge the unceded Piscataway land on which our community is located–the class of 2020 donated a land acknowledgement plaque that will soon be placed on campus–this change in the way we refer to this holiday is part of, as the plaque acknowledges, our community’s attempt to demonstrate “a commitment to the process of understanding and grappling with the ongoing legacies of colonialism.”
Happy Indigenous People’s Day!
Next Up: Disabilities Awareness and Indigenous American/American Indian Heritage Month
At the conclusion of Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month, the OIEJB will shift our focus to two weeks of Disabilities Awareness, featuring an Upper School Advisory lesson and other activities and awareness-raising efforts in the Middle School and Lower School.
In November, we will celebrate Indigenous American/American Indian Heritage month with book displays, decorations, and more. We will continue to connect our older and younger students through cross-divisional programming.