Amongst all the emphasis on STEM education at Brooklyn Tech, humanities is often found overshadowed in our school community. From majors to internship opportunities to clubs, there are significantly less humanities, English and history classes and events for students. In addition, there are only two English majors compared to the fifteen available STEM majors. One teacher named Mr. Lulov decided that students shouldn’t be left out on a crucial aspect of their education that Tech often sidelines: Social Justice. His initiative is to further educate students beyond his classes and offer a platform to students and teachers to interact and learn about Social Justice issues. This initiative came to life in an annual school event called RISE.
Every annual RISE event has a different theme to emphasize a social justice cause, and this year’s theme is RISE: Organize. As described by President Nafiza Tarannum ’18, “the purpose of RISE is to create dialogue among the Tech community. This dialogue is especially important in today’s political climate and offers a platform for all students to understand that they aren’t alone. There are times when people are insensitive and don’t care about social justice, so this event is crucial to shed light for people to see the importance of it. This social justice fair, including workshop and panels, is to educate and create awareness for issues that affect everybody in the community.”
RISE began as an event led by teachers two years ago and has been gradually expanding. However, RISE became student-led with the creation of the RISE committee this year. As described by the executives of the RISE Committee, teachers seemed to shrug off the event when Mr. Lulov reached out to expand it, but students seemed to have more interest. The students that took initiate and organized every aspect of the event are Nafiza Tarannum ‘18, Sadia Tasnim ‘18, Tabassum Bhuiyan ‘18, Samihah Sirajulislam ‘19, Divya Tulsiani ‘19 and Mubeen Sadaqat’19. Their efforts paid off when almost two hundred student attended, compared to the sixteen students who attended the first RISE event two years ago. The committee executives agreed that their advertisements were able to reach many students that encouraged them to attend. For months, they reached out to different clubs to participate by creating panels and asked clubs like NHS and H.O.P.E. to offer points to attend the event. Apart from reaching out to clubs, they reached out to many Social Studies and English teachers to encourage participation in RISE by offering extra credit. Moreover, their social media influence further attracted students with daily advertisements for two weeks before the actual event, continually releasing information on a poster about new workshops and an additional description about the club, including it’s statement of purpose within the Tech community. Beyond advertisements, RISE had weekly meetings since October to plan the panels and workshops, organize details like food orders and create proposals. However, they agreed that they had a great administration that was supportive and went out of their way to help make RISE a reality. Included in the administration that they thought especially invested their time in RISE, is Mr. Kaelin, Ms. Nottingham, Mr. Lulov and Ms. Ramona.
On February 2nd, students filled the halls outside the cafeteria, waiting anxiously for RISE to begin. As each attendee signed in, they were guided towards seats at the center, where the guest panelists settled in and began discussion. The RISE Committee reached out to a variety of student activists and teachers to speak during the panelist discussion. The guest panelist included:
- The President of Black Student Union- Osa
- The President of HeforShe- Sophia Mitchell
- The Co-President of MSA- Tousif Khan
- The President of Legal Outreach Council and Student Advocate of SGO- Divya Tulsani
- President of GSA- Lydia Stanford
- Founder of RISE and Social Worker- Mr. Lulov
- History Teacher and Debate Coach- Mr. Stevens
- APUSH Teacher- Ms. Worrell
The discussion began with a RISE member asking questions tackling social issues. The guest speakers then answered the questions based on their beliefs and knowledge of that issue. Throughout the discussion, students were handed index cards to ask questions they had of their own.
(Picture on the Right: Students responding to a question made by Panelist Divya Tulsani)
(Picture on the Left: Panelist responding to questions)
The first question that was posed was “What does it mean to be an ally to the LGBTQ community?” Lydia Stanford responded, “It means to listen to other people’s experience and learn.” She believes that to be an ally, they must accept that they can’t experience what others went through and that they must be open to listen to everyone’s story. The following question was “What is the police and the role of the police?” Tousif Khan began his response by dating the concept of the police back to England. He stated “the purpose of the police was to protect land and property. As England began colonizing the world, the idea of the police spread. The original purpose of the police has not changed. In every movement and protest, the police were against the people. Many think that the police have changed since then, or that it can be reformed but that’s not true because their purpose has always been and will always be to protect private interests and property so long capitalism exists.” He further argued,
“Although there may have been plenty of morally good Nazis who never raised a hand against anyone, they still sit idly as their fellow officers rounded up, subjugated and murdered the Jewish population. Likewise these “good” cops who never have raised a hand against anyone sit idly as their fellow officers do the same to people of color. Making a distinction between good cops and bad cops or good Nazis and bad Nazis is pointless, because it doesn’t matter what the individual morals are. At the end of the day they both serve an inherently unjust and evil institution.” After finishing his response, the crowd had a mix reaction. There were students that applauded in agreement, however there were some that believed comparing the modern police force to the Nazis were out of proportion. Towards the end of the panel, students in the audience were allowed to ask question and make statements to further develop the conversation. The panel discussion continued till intermission where free pizza and drinks were served, and people were allowed to participate in workshops.
The workshops offered poster boards created by individual clubs that RISE reached out to and had members to answer questions of the attendees. The clubs that hosted workshops at RISE were:
(Pictures of their panels will be included below)
- Muslim Students’ Association, Sadia Tasnim & Tousif Khan
- Black Student Union, Osa
- Aspira, Maria Walker
- HeForShe, Sophia Michel
- Gay-Straight Alliance, Lydia Stanford
- Body Empowerment, Jade Wong
- Ruby Engineers, Ange Louis
- STAND, Asma Sadia
- Youth Against Child Trafficking, Julia Zeng
- T.E.L.L, Sadia Tarin
- Stand Against Starvation (SAS), Karen Li
- Legal Outreach Council, Divya Tulsiani
STAND chapter at Tech is “the student led movement to end mass atrocities in places like Syria, Burma, Sudan and etc. and any emerging crisis by educating students about and fighting against all the mass atrocities happening around our world by engaging our school community by raising awareness through events and campaigns and participating in advocacy” described by President Asma Sadia’18. Sadia explained that “RISE was a perfect opportunity to communicate with people that are interested in social justice. This was the ideal area to raise awareness about events like the forgotten Yemen war. Many students at Tech often don’t read the news or if they do the news is very biased. Additionally, there are times whertain events are completely disregarded and was never given any attention. RISE is the ultimate platform to discuss about all events, whether they affect them or not.” STAND has been participating in RISE since the first RISE event, where they’ve watched the event grow from 16-20 attending to hundreds within the three years. She thought that the Committee deserves a huge round of applause for being able to gather so many people,,organize this event and expanded.the event very well. STAND is certainly looking forward to the next annual RISE.
Another club that was asked to make an appearance is the TELL club. The aim of TELL is to give a voice for the people that are not heard within the school and to raise awareness about social issues that the members of the club are passionate about advocating for. Although this was TELL’s first year participating, representatives such as Christine Sanchez ’20, Stacy Boey ’20 and Alexa Whyte ’20 thought that their workshop was fairly easy to create due to the diverse group of students present in the club. They have been preparing to discuss and explain ideas like sexism and cultural appropriation and other social issues at RISE. Furthermore, most of the explanations about terms most students might not know, like black feminism and womanism, were fluent and straightforward since they have been educated for these terms. Overall, they thought that RISE has been a successful outcome where they had the chance to raise awareness and network with fellow clubs interested in social issues.
The Ruby Engineers also participated for the first time in RISE, and they are already excited to return next year. Representatives of the Ruby Engineers such as Ange Louis ’19 and Natalie Gorodetsky ’20 thought RISE was the perfect platform to spread the message of their club and raise awareness of the male dominance currently in the STEM field, and support females to pursue their dreams. Furthermore, they thought it was a cool event for Technites to be aware of social issues and of what’s going on, so they wanted to be able to participate. Additionally they sought to expand their “circle” and gain publicity for the club. Their poster highlights the Women’s march and the Times Up movement. Overall, they were glad to be able to contribute to RISE
HeforShe, a club dedicated for gender equality, was reached out by RISE to bring the school together for social justice awareness, and President Sophia Mitchell was motivated to join. Mitchell described that “Tech genuinely needs events like RISE for people to come together and share their opinions. Everyone has a voice and should take every opportunity available at Tech.” Mitchell explained “the organization for this event was impeccable. The issues I thought couldn’t be to be together and discussed, were turned into a reality. I saw many conversations about these issues and thus allowing for people to leave with a more open perspective.The largest benefit of RISE is to allow people to develop a greater network and that this event can keep these connection going.
RISE began wrapping up with final performances filled with singing, dancing, art pieces and spoken word.
- Singing, YACT
- Spoken Word, Brianna Crowther
- Group Song, Tasnim Ahmed
- Dance, Tech Unique Urban
- Singer, Mimi Buan
- Spoken Word, Jarrin Choudhury
- Singer, Carina Tan
Step, Lady Dragons
After all these performances, the third annual RISE finally came to an end. The executive board of RISE described that their original goals of the event has been fulfilled. RISE was created for students to allow their voices to be heard and have a variety within the panels to interest and engage students. Nafiza Tarannum ‘18 explained that “the participation of about two hundred students exceeded my expectations.” Mr. Lulov’s initiative to encourage Technites to be aware of social justice issues and current events around them is being achieved one RISE at a time, and we all look forward to what the RISE committee will bring to the table next year!