By Dan Zapata ‘21

The Brother Rice Diversity Club has existed for several years, but in times where injustice still lurks on American soil, more students have joined to have their voices heard. This year, the club received a very exclusive opportunity to collaborate with other schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago.

The summer of 2020 proved to be a turning point in the movement to call for an end to racial injustice. Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago also advocated for change, specifically for schools associated with the Archdiocese of Chicago, to shape the narrative and become champions of racial equity and justice.

However, only so much can change at a time, especially when there is still so much to learn. It is through students that the Archdiocese will be able to develop a deeper understanding of the issue and learn what steps to take to progress forward.

Earlier this month, I attended the first part of a virtual conference known as the Chicago Archdiocese High School Student Advisory Group for Racial Equity and Justice. In partnership with DePaul University, the organization gathers students across 30 Archdiocese-associated schools in the Chicago area to offer insight and develop an understanding of racial injustice.

The conference is divided into three sessions, all taking place a month apart. The first session focused on developing a common understanding of racism and racial justice and identifying challenges to racial equity. I entered a Zoom call with almost 200 other students all gathered for the same reason: to have their voices heard.

For two hours, I heard stories from all different angles. Mentors described their teenage experience with their school’s academic bias, in which they always hesitated to accept black teenagers in advanced classes and honors programs. In a breakout room with other students, I had the pleasure of listening to students like me give their perspective on racism and the many subtle ways Catholic educational institutions enable microaggressions.

Junior Edgar Valadez said, “The DePaul conference brought to me a mixed bag of emotions. I was ecstatic seeing so many other students willing to fight for equality that all people deserve. There were darker emotions, however, especially when hearing the stories students from other schools sharing the inequalities they faced, their motivations, was empowering and in a sense, motivating. It was motivating hearing that people faced similar situations that I faced in their lives and it inspired me to try to face the obstacles faced.”

The conference ended with a collecting of terms that define the image of racial justice and an ideal world without bias.

On March 8, the group will meet again to discuss how to address racial equality within schools and communities.