On Saturday, March 18, 2017, a group of Malden High students went to Salem High School with world history teacher Dana Marie Brown to be a part of the Pharnal Longus High School Workshop on Race, Culture and Ethnicity.
In this workshop, we discussed racism, ethnicity, how society views the two, and our individual cultures and traditions. The workshop was created by the late Salem State professor, Pharnal Longus, and is now carried on by his wife, Luz Longus and his son Omar along with a number of trained volunteers.
In the workshop, along with us girls from Malden, there were students from Salem High, Manchester Essex, and Lawrence, which brought together a diverse group in which to discuss and debate. To start out, we all introduced ourselves, giving our name, grade, school we came from, and why we decided to come to the workshop. We were then divided off into small groups of 10 or so people in which we began some group activities. We were given the challenge of defining words such as race, discrimination, prejudice, racism, and a number of other words, to which we had to then agree on one definition to present to all the other groups.
After we agreed on our group definition, we were given a new challenge. We were presented with a list of people with varying ages, genders, work experience, and backgrounds; there was an epidemic around the world and only 7 of the people on the list of immune could travel to a new planet to carry on human life.
We had to debate and give reasoning behind who we chose and had to make compromises and sacrifices. This also was presented to all the other groups. After all the groups had presented, the trainers gave us their definition of all of these terms. Everyone agreed the race is a social construct, and discussed the differences between race, ethnicity, and all of the other words we defined.
One of the last things we did was that we all sat down in a huge circle and discussed all the varying cultures of everyone there. The director, Luz Longus, a Colombian native, showed us a number of instruments that are a large piece of Colombian culture, and told us about her holiday traditions. People discussed their names and what they mean, the various holidays celebrated around the world, their flags, family traditions, family struggles and an endless amount of conversation that would otherwise be unimaginable.
After the conference, I began talking to a student from Manchester-Essex, Lorenzo Venegas-Villa about our expectations and how we felt about the day as a whole. Venegas-Villa stated that he either expected it to be run like a college lecture, with one person talking the whole time, or for it to be a huge group discussion between the students and trainers. “[He] was interested by the sense of community that was so quickly established without our small groups and the large group overall [and] really enjoyed the interactive element presented by Luz and her children.” The trainers ended the day by encouraging us all to continue our friendships with the people we had met, whether we went to the same school, or we simply added each other on social media platforms such as Instagram or Snapchat. Of the Malden High students that went, many of us stated that we would return to the next session in the fall this year.