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O’Dowd Students Lead Bay Area Teach-In for Justice

On January 25, 2020, two days before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, nearly 150 students and teachers from ten Bay Area high schools gathered at Bishop O’Dowd High School for the 5th Annual Bay Area Teach-In for Justice, with the theme, “Rooted in Justice, Growing for Change.” Participating schools included Berkeley High School, Bellarmine College Preparatory, Notre Dame Belmont, Archbishop Mitty High School, Saint Ignatius College Preparatory, Hayward High School, Cristo Rey San José Jesuit High School, Cristo Reye De La Salle, Piedmont High School, and Sacred Heart Atherton. Participants spent the day exploring and learning about key issues and actions related to environmental and social justice. Organized and led by O’Dowd’s Solidarity-in-Action student leaders, sessions addressed regional issues and actions related to those raised at December’s Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice in Washington, D.C. which O’Dowd students, along with 2,000 others, attended.

The day began with leaders from Enact Leadership, Managing Director Pamela Hopkins (parent of Luci ‘20) and Executive Coach Plácida Gallegos, challenging students to reflect on their leadership journeys by sharing their intentions for the day. O’Dowd Solidarity-in-Action leader Sophia Childs ‘20 shared, “Each person got a sticky note and wrote their intentions for the day and placed the notes on a large poster of a tree, like leaves. Throughout the day you could revisit your intention. I thought it was beautiful how the tree started off with no leaves and was then beautifully filled up.”

Students held these intentions throughout the day as they attended break-out sessions on environmental justice, minority inequality, and law and policy. O’Dowd Solidarity-in-Action leader Reilly Wilson ‘20 was impressed by those who attended. “Everyone was extremely engaged. They came ready to talk and have challenging conversations.” Solidarity-in-Action leader Justin Walker ‘20 shared one such conversation: “After attending a session on environmental racism, I had a conversation with a man who questioned why Greta Thunberg is the face of the climate change movement and why there are few people of color shown as those leaders. We discussed the perspective that if something is not regarded as being by black people it’s often not for black people.”

Solidarity-in-Action leader Keiani Allen ‘20 facilitated an art and activism workshop, and shared her experience: “Seeing how the art I do every day can be taught to people and give them an opportunity to show activism by making posters or printing t-shirts is a really positive way to get people to become directly engaged.”

After enjoying vegan soul food barbeque provided by Vegan Mob, students enjoyed a rap performed by Matt White ‘22, reflecting on black history, progress, and activism. The day culminated in a presentation and ceremony led by Lead to Life founders Kyle Lemle and brontë velez. Their organization expresses unique activism by transforming weapons into shovels for tree planting ceremonies at sites that have been impacted by violence or carry spiritual significance. After their keynote, students viewed tools created from guns and conducted a tree-planting ceremony near the Center for Environmental Studies, on the land of the Ohlone. Individuals impacted by gun violence were invited to participate in the tree planting. Solidarity in Action member Emma Lancaster ’20 shared, “It was really meaningful to see people who had been impacted by gun violence in some way coming together to plant new life with shovels made from guns.”

Erin Brown, Program Director with the Ignatian Solidarity Network, shared her excitement about the January Teach-In: “Through our D.C. conference, we hope that students are inspired to create change and momentum in their own communities when they return home. And that is exactly what Bishop O’Dowd has been doing year after year–bringing people together to learn and take action.”

Thank you to all of the students and teachers from Bay Area schools participated in the day, to our keynote speakers for inspiring us to act, and to O’Dowd’s Solidarity-in-Action student leaders for delivering a memorable experience to spark positive change.


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