SDLC Changed My Life, And So Did MLK

Alexis Miramontes  MLK day is not just another day off of school; it’s a day in which we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr’s legacy of hope and activism for social justice. We often commemorate King’s words of love by studying history, as if battling discrimination has passed. But many people are still fighting inequality today. Americans easily overlook the freedom they have because it isn’t challenged, but I know many people that have experiences similar to mine, who are constantly reminded about civil rights. Social activists like Ida B. Wells, Malcolm X, and Angela Davis are just a handful of people who support (or supported) MLK’s idea of revolutionary love that fights injustice. The student leaders that went to SDLC this year are another handful of MLK supporters. This year, the Student Diversity and Leadership Conference hosted 1600 kids from every corner of the U.S. in Atlanta, Georgia. Focusing on Civil Rights and its leaders, this location was especially powerful considering its history and legacy. It was inspiring to be surrounded by love and inclusion, when during the Jim Crow Era, we might have been surrounded by just the opposite. The conference explored how America continues to fight racism, sexism, classism, and all the “isms” that still exist today. I am endlessly grateful for the dialogue, workshops, and presentations that focused on community building, forming allies and life long friendships, educating each other about injustices, and most importantly, self-exploration. People who had gone before told me it would change my life, and although it sounds cliché, they were right. Even though I didn’t get to meet every single person there, each person’s presence made an impact on the SDLC experience. Each day I met countless people from different backgrounds and learned things I never knew about their identity, but I was also so surprised how many things we shared in common. Meeting people who went to private schools and who were only one of four other Latinos in their whole high school, or meeting people who didn’t have the opportunities affinity groups offer us made me appreciate my experience at Latin a little more. And I was amazed how many kids in the U.S. had such similar stories as mine. All of a sudden I knew I wasn’t alone in the world of private institutions. There were so many other students just like me who hear unacceptable racial slurs in the halls, who are excluded, and feel that they do not belong. This was both eye-opening and saddening, but our positive energy and minds were very productive for these three days. We were cooped up in conference rooms having intimate conversations about our futures and our society’s, always pushing each other outside of our comfort zones. I was truly fortunate to meet so many lively souls who continue to educate and advocate for equality, starting at fourteen years old. From the many opportunities Latin has offered me, SDLC was the most incredible. In only a span of 3 days, our SDLC team became empowered, energized, and hopeful, ready to fight social justice and bring conversations home and to school. “I noticed a change in myself before and after SDLC,” said sophomore Noor Kamal. “And I’m really proud to be more confident in voicing my opinions and standing up for myself.” I too, gained much more confidence in classrooms, pride about my identity, and learned how to communicate about controversial topics and major identifiers. Junior Brandon Pita’s experience offered him “the chance to join the conversations that no one ever wanted to talk about back home,” and I can easily agree that it was refreshing to have heartfelt discussions while being completely honest and open with people I’d known for only hours. When listening to others, Chasey Dunn was “able to learn and have empathy,” which is important when raising awareness about injustices people experience daily and learning to respect one another. When we came back during finals’ week, I know I was a bit more focused on tackling injustices than studying for my math final. I was ready to use my positive energy and bring it back to my community. Engaging in  conversation is a great way to stimulate new thoughts and ideas, as well as educating others to be more open-minded. Chasey Dunn, Noor Kamal, Julian Lee-Zacheis, Brandon Pita, Kelsey Watkins, and I continue to advocate and celebrate what MLK represents: love, change, power, dignity, justice, pride, and hope.  ]]>